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Poor Planning

Planning Commission has painful meeting

By Nick Barbaro, Fri., May 16, 2014

The city Planning Commission had a painful evening Tuesday, with the lion's share of its agenda taken up by three separate zoning cases in which city staff had issued permits for construction that should not have been allowed, and was now recommending zoning changes to accommodate the illegal construction. If you're keeping score, the PC recommended approval of two of the zoning changes, denial of one – on reasonable grounds – but the broader questions lingered, as voiced in frustration by Commissioner Danette Chimenti: Why is the city issuing permits for projects that clearly violate such basic principles as impervious cover limits and building setbacks? Why, indeed, are certified architects and engineers even submitting such plans that they have to know aren't up to code?

And when "mistakes are made," what's the proper remedy? To whom does the city have greater responsibility: the property owner who says, "You told me it was OK to pave over this area; I've got the permit right here," or the one who says, "My whole yard floods every time it rains because you let this guy build an illegal parking area uphill from me"?

It is from such petty disputes as this that city policy is forged. But indeed, it was hard to tell what policy was being promoted Tuesday night. Are development applications to be scrutinized more carefully? Are applicants and their professional representatives to be discouraged from submitting obviously deficient plans, with hopes that they'll get through Development Review with a nod or a wink, and then be grandfathered forever? Is there any reason to think we'll do better in the future?

So many questions; so few answers.

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