One day after Planning Commissioner Jean Schumacher was fired by the City Council, the commission approved a controversial, major pierside redevelopment project on a 4-3 vote, with her replacement casting a crucial favorable vote.
"If Jean Schumacher would have been there, it probably wouldn't have been approved," said Commission Chairman Tom Livengood, who voted against the sweeping project, which calls for an assortment of shops, restaurants and fast-food outlets near the Main Street Pier.
"I have never seen a major project like this approved in two days' time. That's ridiculous," Livengood said, adding that the commission didn't receive the final plans until late Friday.
"I think it was obvious last night certain council members would rubber-stamp whatever project came to them," he charged.
Councilman Jack Kelly fired Schumacher, his commission appointee, Monday night because he said she and others on the commission had been stalling the city's plans to redevelop the downtown and pier areas.
Livengood and other commissioners have accused the council of pressuring them to quickly approve several redevelopment projects before the November election, when four of seven City Council seats will up for grabs.
Kelly replaced Schumacher with Kent M. Pierce, a pro-redevelopment real estate agent. Pierce said he was sufficiently familiar with the pierside village project, as vice chairman of a citizens advisory group on the plan, to cast an informed vote within one day.
The four-level village calls for 65 boutiques, 24 fast-food outlets and three sit-down restaurants on five acres next to the beach.
"I think community redevelopment is good for the city. I think the public testimony last night was overwhelmingly in favor of doing it and doing it now," Pierce said.