Two changes to the Land Development Code (LDC) were discussed on Tuesday evening, February 4 at the meeting of the Palisade Planning Commission. Both changes were ultimately approved by the Planning Commission as proposed text amendments to the current LDC. The approval is a recommendation to the Board of Trustees and the final hearing will be at the February 11 meeting of the Board of Trustees for their approval or denial.
At the January 21 meeting of the Planning Commission, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson suggested that the commissioners might want to review site plans themselves, rather than the current process of having the site plan review conducted by the Community Development Director. The exception would be if the site plan is part of a major subdivision, then it would come before the Planning Commission as always.
Hawkinson explained that by having the Planning Commission review the minor site plans, there would be a public hearing, something that the current process does not include. Currently only major subdivision site plans are set for public hearings, and Hawkinson felt that the checks and balances are not as complete if there is only one person reviewing the minor site plans. Community Development Director Allyson Shellhorn explained that although she was the only town official reviewing the site plans, the plans are also sent out to review agencies for feedback.
Ellen Turner, 614 Lincoln – wanted clarification on whether the proposed text amendment will switch site plan approval from staff to the Planning Commission. Shellhorn replied that it would.
Gail Evans, 126 Majestic Ct. – expressed concern that the Planning Commission, an appointed body, would have the final say on certain issues instead of an elected body making the decisions.
Shellhorn stressed that by moving the site plan review to the Planning Commission, there is actually an extra step of public oversight due to the addition of the public hearing in front of the Planning Commission.
PRO-2020-1 was approved by the Planning Commission in a unanimous decision.
It was also suggested that variance requests be heard by the Planning Commission instead of by the Board of Trustees. With similar reasoning, commission members should be more familiar with the process and with the Land Development Code than members of the Board of Trustees. There would be a public hearing in front of the Planning Commission for citizens to voice their opinions on the application.
On the subject of how the applicant could respond to an unfavorable ruling, Planning Commission chairman Don Bosch says “the Board of Trustees can call up an application for review with a majority vote.The Board of Trustees can then vote on the application for a final decision.” It was explained by Shellhorn that if the applicant disagrees with the ruling of the Planning Commission, the applicant and public can petition the Board of Trustees to hear the matter as well. If the Board should agree to hear the request, it would also hold a public hearing, giving the applicant the opportunity for two public hearings instead of just the one before the Planning Commission.
Ellen Turner, 614 Lincoln – asked how the review process by the Board of Trustees would be triggered. Commissioner Penny Prinster responded, explaining that the Board of Trustees would read the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting and public hearing that would be included in their packets for their next meeting. If they disagreed with the Planning Commission, they could decide to review the application for themselves, which would also include another public hearing. She also asked how the public could trigger a review by the Board. Chairman Bosch explained that community members could respond with emails, calls to individual Trustees, public outreach on the Town’s Facebook page or a call to the Town Clerk.
Commissioner Stan Harbaugh then requested that the same process for a public request for a review by the Board of Trustees of a Planning Commission verdict also be included in the process for PRO 2020-1 for site plan approvals by the Planning Commission.
PRO-2020-2 was also approved in a unanimous decision by Planning Commission members, to be recommended to the Board of Trustees at their February 11 meeting.
When the Board of Trustees was presented with the two recommendations at their February 11 meeting, they voted not to change the procedures and give site plan approval and variance requests to the Planning Commission to decide, but rather to keep the authority for both issues with the Board of Trustees.
Present at the February 4 meeting were Planning Commission Chair Don Bosch, Commissioners Riley Parker, Charlotte Wheeler, Penny Prinster, Betsy McLaughlin, and Stan Harbaugh as well as Community Development Director Allyson Shellhorn and Planning Technician Lydia Roberts.
The next meeting of the Planning Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18 at 6:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Meeting Room at 341 W. Seventh St. in Palisade. All meetings are open to the public and citizens are encouraged to attend.