Planning Commission gets new member

An architect and vice president of one of the nation’s largest engineering and construction firms was appointed Monday as the newest member of the city’s Planning Commission.

La Cañada Flintridge native Rick Gunter will take over the seat left vacant in March after longtime commission member Michael Davitt was elected to the City Council.

Gunter will fill the remainder of Davitt’s term, which was to extend to May 2014, after which he would be eligible for reappointment.

The City Council selected Gunter from a field of nine residents who had applied for the volunteer position.

Following short interviews of candidates at the start of Monday’s meeting, each of the five council members voted their choices by written ballot.

Without any discussion, all five chose Gunter.

Councilwoman Laura Olhasso praised Gunter’s qualifications, saying the council did not discuss his appointment at all prior to its unanimous approval.

“I was looking for someone with experience in land-use planning, the language of it and how it works, and someone who didn’t work [in La Canada],” said Olhasso, who had previously served on the Planning Commission.

Gunter works at the Los Angeles offices of URS Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that has filled government contracts for highways and bridges and also builds airports, industrial plants and other large projects.

Because it handles only very large projects, the company has no active or pending interests in La Cañada Flintridge, Gunter said.

“In my career I’ve presented to hundreds of planning commissions, so I’m very familiar with zoning ordinances, land-use law and all the things that go into making zoning ordinances effective for a local community,” said Gunter, who graduated from La Cañada High School in 1982.

As for the promise of sorting out complex, and at times controversial, development approvals late into the night, Gunter said he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m interested in all the technical aspects of zoning law,” he said. “I guess it’s pretty dry stuff if you’re not into it, but if you are, it’s fascinating.”

Gunter will begin his term at the Planning Commission’s May 24 meeting.

Gunter’s wife, Denise Gunter, is director of activities for St. Francis High School.

The Gunters have two children who both attend LCHS.

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