Q&A with Bob Rollins – Paso Robles Planning Commission chairman
In this Q&A we’re going to learn a little bit about what the Paso Robles Planning Commission does but we’re also going to get to know the current chairman, Bob Rollins. It’s always interesting to learn more about city officials, professionally and personally. Thank you, Bob, for taking part in this.
Where are you from originally? Kellogg, Idaho
How long have you been in Paso Robles? My family and I have lived in Paso Robles since 1993.
What kind of career did you have? Are you retired or still working? Retired US Army. I work part time as an adjunct professor and personal trainer.
Are you married? Kids? Married to Barbara and we have two sons, Jeff, 24, and Sam, 19.
How long have you been on the planning commission? Started on the planning commission in December of 2012.
Why did you want to join the planning commission? A friend suggested that I look into it. I have an MBA with a Project Management concentration. The planning commission seemed like a good fit.
Is the planning commission your first position of service to the community? I have held board positions with Little League Baseball, the Los Padres Officials Association but this is my first community service position.
What are some of the “job descriptions” for a member of the planning commission? A planning commissioner needs to be open minded and a good listener. The planning commission is responsible for approving, conditionally approving, or denying parcel maps, subdivisions, conditional use permits, zone variances, planned developments, and site plans. A planning commissioner needs to be familiar with the city’s general plan and the process of how city government works.
What are your plans when your term is up? I plan to reapply for another term. I am also considering a city council run in the next couple of years.
When you have time away from work and other obligations, what might people find you doing? (Hobbies, etc.) Teaching SCUBA diving, cycling, officiating high school football, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
What is your favorite thing about Paso Robles? The people. I grew up in a small town (smaller than Paso Robles) where people were genuine. Paso Robles has the same feel.
What is something you want to see Paso improve upon? The city needs to do a better job explaining the city’s water supply resources and the purpose to conservation programs during the drought. There is so much outcry about water. We are in a drought but the City of Paso Robles has done a very good job of planning for the future and has more than adequate resources. Part of the issue is that the Governor implemented a statewide mandate of conservation last year as a blanket approach to saving water. It was a quick mandate that did not take into consideration those communities that had planned and were capable of delivering water to the residents. This is not to say that we should not be conservation minded. Water is a precious resource and we as good citizens should endeavor to utilize it properly.
What advice would you give someone that wants to get involved in public service? Where is a good place to start? Have thick skin. Endeavor to understand the difference between what a person knows and what a person thinks. All too often we listen to people talking about something that they “think” because they heard information from someone else. Take the time to research the issue and have knowledge about it when speaking. Plan on spending more time than you thought it would take. Each planning commissioner serves as a liaison to a committee. Two planning commission meetings per month, one committee meeting per month plus the time to review the agenda and material for each meeting. Three planning commissioners also serve on the Development Review Committee (DRC) which meets weekly. Last but not least is the time to go out and visually see the project or project site.
From a planning commission point of view, what do you see being a couple of key issues that need to be addressed sooner than later? First and foremost, would be traffic. We have areas of the city that are dreadful during peak hours. One of the challenges is that most cities do not build roads for peak traffic hours. Most roads are designed around average daily trips. This can be frustrating when you are sitting at an intersection for a prolonged period. The second issue is to manage growth. Growth needs to occur for a viable economy. Growth is necessary and if one takes the time to do the research, they will discover that communities that do not grow become obsolete over time. Communities that manage growth typically do well with having a broad range of services, shopping, and employment opportunities. When we first moved to Paso Robles the population was around 19,000 people. The size was one of the things that we appreciated. The hard part is to recognize that others find the same charm and want to live here as well. Some people would like to see us “close the gate” and not let others in but that isn’t realistic. The best option is to plan for growth so we can preserve Paso’s character and quality of life while encouraging economic development and job creation.
Can you name a few highlights of your time on the commission? Serving as the chair this year is one of the highlights. I am a big fan of efficiency in meetings. Learning from past commissioners has been another highlight. Those people that served before have a wealth of knowledge and an understanding of why some of the things are the way they are and why they need to be the way they are. The planning commission attends training every year and we are educated on current laws and regulations as they pertain to planning, building, environmental regulations and pending legislation. California has some pretty specific rules (laws) pertaining to property rights. Understanding those laws and understanding why a project should go forward (even if a commissioner may not like the project) has been an interesting thing to learn.