Naked City

Baptists Lose Appeal

Last Wednesday night -- actually very early Thursday morning -- the Planning Commission voted to sustain two of three appeals filed by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association against time extensions previously granted to the Hyde Park Baptist Church's site plans for three tracts in the 3800 block of Speedway.

Although the 45-day extensions, granted to give HPBC time to respond to staff comments on the site plans, had already run out, granting the HPNA appeals effectively killed those plans, which the HPBC will now presumably have to re-create and refile. Opponents insist the church's current plans for the tracts are not compatible with the immediate surroundings or the larger neighborhood plan -- HPNA Co-President Gary Penn described them as little more than "token, improvisational" plans filed to maintain the HPBC's rights to build as it wishes.

The PC's decision to grant the appeals, if upheld by the City Council (according to city staff, HBPC attorney Richard Suttle has filed a counter-appeal) could resonate beyond the particular subject, since this might have been the first time such extensions have been appealed, as allowed under the Land Development Code, "for good cause." Susan Scanlon of the city's Watershed Protection and Development Review Department said the situation is certainly unusual, and that staff is consulting with city attorneys to determine how to proceed with Suttle's appeals, any refiled HPBC site plans, or future cases involving other neighborhood plans.

Commission chair Lydia Ortiz said she hadn't seen such an appeal of extensions in her two years as a member, and described it as "a gray area" concerning what might constitute "good cause." Ortiz voted to deny all three extensions because she believes the church had not met its requirements on the plans, but said that a commission majority agreed that for the tract on the west side of Speedway the HPBC site plan is sufficient to proceed.

Suttle did not return calls requesting comment. Ortiz noted that she didn't know what to expect from the HPBC appeals, but should the council overrule the commission's recommendations, "it wouldn't be the first time."

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