When Northlake residents head to the polls on May 1, they will decide whether to adopt a Home Rule Charter and add a sixth member to the Town Council.
The town would move from General Law to Home Rule if the new charter is approved. General Law towns have to follow the rules of the state and can only do what state statutes allow, while Home Rule towns have more freedoms to change procedures and give more rights to residents in relation to Town Council.
Home Rule is about giving “more power to the people,” said Mayor Pro Tem Brian Montini.
Under Home Rule, residents will be able to recall elected officials, repeal ordinances and force council to address an issue through petitions. They can also change the makeup of the Town Council — which is up for vote now, to add a sixth council member and give the mayor the right to vote on action items — and the town can impose term limits. Home Rule towns will also be required by state law to establish a Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Adjustment.
This is happening now because once a town hits 5,000 residents, which Northlake recently did, it becomes eligible to adopt a Home Rule Charter, something that Montini said is “extremely important” as the town prepares for much more growth in the coming years.
“The makeup of our town is going to change,” Montini said. “It’s going to get more dense, and more services will be wanted. If council did not represent those people effectively, the people should have the right to take that up, one way or another.”
Town Administrator Drew Corn said the town would be following in the footsteps of other towns in the area once they reached populations of 5,000.
“Everyone does this when they hit 5,000,” Corn said. “I can’t think of a city over 5,000 that hasn’t gone through this process. This is the step you take when you start growing.”
A commission of 19 residents, chaired by Montini, submitted the final charter after six long meetings. The commission was made up of two residents from each town neighborhood and rural areas, as well as one person appointed by each council member. The commission and Town Council hope that the proposed changes will provide more equitable representation for everyone in town, Montini said.
Two residents — Wesley Boyer and Jeffrey Nichols — filed to run for the new Place 6 in the town’s special election. Also on the ballot are the expiring seats of mayor and Places 4 and 5 on Town Council, but only one person filed to run for each of those positions: Mayor David Rettig and Place 4 Councilman Roger Sessions will serve another two-year term, and Bill Moore will be the next council member in Place 5, because Danny Simpson did not file for reelection.
Click here to see the proposed Home Rule Charter.