‘Not giving a second chance’

Harrisville fires planning commissioner for violating zoning ordinance

HARRISVILLE — The Harrisville City Council on Monday voted to remove a new planning commission member who officials said had violated two zoning ordinances.

Mayor John Dobis reported that Mael Fritz was in violation of at least two zoning ordinances and was given written notice for the violation of harboring chickens, ducks and geese within the city limits.

The zoning administrator sent Fritz a letter on Aug. 2 with a request to remove the animals by Aug. 16. Dobis said Fritz did correct one violation, but geese were still living on the property. According to Dobis, the zoning administrator had checked on Monday morning and the geese were still there. He also said that other sources informed him that Fritz was unwilling to get rid of the geese.

Asked to comment on Tuesday, Fritz said she did not know about her removal from the planning commission until Tuesday night. She also said she was not made aware that the issue with her pets would be on the City Council agenda or she would have attended the meeting.

Fritz said she never received any written notification, to her knowledge, but Dobis did stop by her home to give a verbal warning. Fritz was not home at the time, but her spouse was present. She said she never had ducks, but she did have chickens that were part of an educational program from the elementary school, and she housed them until she was told they could not be kept. Fritz then found an appropriate home for them.

As for the geese, Fritz said she does have two pet geese, but once she knew they were in violation of the zoning ordinance, she has tried to find someone to take them.

“I was trying to rehome them, but it was taking longer than anticipated,” she said.

As for her removal from the planning commission, Fritz said a personal dispute with another city official preceded the decision to remove her from the planning commission.

However, she remained positive and said she didn’t want to burn any bridges in case she wanted to participate in local government at another time. She stressed the importance of the next generation stepping up to fill the roles in the community as the older generation retires.

“It was an honor to serve my city,” Fritz said. “I think it is important for the younger generation to get involved with the city.”

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Dobis entertained a motion to remove Fritz from the planning commission, stating that violating the ordinances goes against the core function of those on the commission.

“We cannot have a person on the planning commission who deals with master planning, zonings, and tries to support their community by making these rules and regulations, be in violation of that,” Dobis said. “Therefore, I do not have the confidence in her serving on the planning commission, nor do I support her continuing to be on the planning commission … I’m not giving a second chance.”

Barb Luenberger moved to remove Fritz from the planning commission, with a second from Jim Kaiser. It was passed with ‘yays’ from Barb Luenberger, Mary Peterson, Jim Kaiser and Mike Baird, and one ‘nay’ from Abby Thomas.

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.