Keller Citizen

Keller mayor backs off call for resignations

The mayor of Keller was unhappy with the behavior of two Planning & Zoning commissioners and brought it to public view during a City Council meeting.

Mayor Mark Mathews said he took issue with the conduct of Commissioners Carey Page and Chris Whatley, most notably in a Planning & Zoning meeting on Jan. 12. In that meeting, the P&Z commission received a development proposal and zoning change request for the Gean Properties, a controversial piece of undeveloped land just north of Keller High School.

During that meeting, Page criticized residents who spoke in favor of the development, including a husband and wife by name.

“Mr. and Mrs. (Jeff and Stephanie) Setzer led a group of citizens in a verbal rotten egg and ripe tomato contest at the Planning & Zoning commission,” Page said. “Our motives, intentions, performance, knowledge and our persons were seriously demeaned, largely based on misinformation and quite inappropriately.”

Stephanie Setzer is now running for City Council.

Also during the meeting, Whatley criticized the developer for intending to “deceive” the city with its plan, which included some park land around two sides of the property. The park land put at least 200 feet between the proposed development and the residents on Bancroft Road and Hallelujah Trail, effectively silencing their disapproval of the zoning change that could have forced a super majority in the City Council to approve it. The development still was denied by Council last month.

Mathews said he was concerned by Whatley and Page’s behavior and met with them later in January about it. He said that their actions in that Jan. 12 meeting was “just the tip of the iceberg” in some “grossly inappropriate lack of professionalism.”

“The fact that people viewed video of the P&Z and took issue with the conduct of commissioners, I just have a problem with it in general,” Mathews said in the Council meeting last week, “and I would have preferred to talk about it in private.”

Instead, Mathews had an open discussion with Whatley and Page because they requested a public hearing. Mathews had asked them both to consider resigning, but they didn’t want to. Page said that if he’s going to be fired, he wants to be fired.

A majority on the seven-person Council is required to appoint and remove P&Z commissioners. Mathews said he didn’t vote to appoint Whatley or Page in June, but four council members did. He said he knew the chance of Whatley and Page being removed last week “was probably 0,” so he just wanted to get the facts out to the public and correct the commissioners’ behavior.

Whatley’s and Mathews’ discussion devolved into each one telling the other he was wrong about their conversation in late January, and Mathews called for a 10-minute recess. After they came back, Mathews said he believed Whatley and Page are “fine individuals and great citizens” and gave them time to speak again before allowing them to recant their request for a public hearing.

Whatley thanked the couple dozen people in attendance, many of whom were presumably there to speak at the public hearing, and he said he was all about integrity and honesty.

Page said he wanted to “put this festering thing to bed.” Both commissioners wanted to remain on the P&Z Board.

Whatley said he changed his mind about the public hearing. Page didn’t know the public hearing hadn’t started already. They both recanted their request, and the mayor said no changes would be made.

“As far as I’m concerned, the issue is resolved,” Mathews then said, before adjourning the meeting. “We’re moving forward.”

After the meeting, Mathews said when he decided to end the discussion, he was evaluating whether continuing dialogue with Whatley would be constructive or not to the city.

Mathews also said he wanted to dispel a misconception many supporters of Whatley and Page had. Page, Whatley and the rest of the P&Z commissioners recommended denying the Gean Properties proposal, and Mathews voted for it.

“Some people incorrectly thought it had to do with their votes on the Gean Properties,” he said. “It only has to do with” their conduct.

Partly because of the commissioners’ behavior, the mayor wants the City Council to recommit to an ethics policy that has basically fallen off the Council’s radar. He led a discussion about it — no action — in the Council meeting March 2, to some disagreement from council members.

Mark David Smith, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @MarkSmith_FWST