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Thread: Site plan review vs. as of right development

  1. #1
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Site plan review vs. as of right development

    In the last two planning positions I have had, there were two quite different processes for development of properties.

    In one, they had a process they called "Site Plan review", any commercial development, whether it was a small addition to an existing property, a redevelopement of an existing site, or the development of an empty site, one had to proceed through a full staff review and presentation before the Plan Commission (appointed citizens) before building permit.

    In my present job, we have a typical "as of right" process that if you meet the requirements of the Zoning Code (no variations) and don't need a subdivision, special use, land use variation, PUD, rezoning, or PUD/SU amendments then you could go straight to building permit application.

    Now I think the Site Plan review process was way too much and imposed too much burden on the property owners and has greater potential for being hurtful to businesses. I once had to go through this whole thing for a new pumphouse on an 18-hole golf course, really unnecessary. This process may be ok for small, slower developing munis (less then 50,000 pop.), but would be impossible for large munis (more than 50,000 pop.)

    The "as of right" process is much easier to apply and much less burdensome on the property owner.

    What is everyone's views/experiences?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    We have site plan review for anything other than single-family homes, but the plans are approved at the staff level.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    I once had to go through this whole thing for a new pumphouse on an 18-hole golf course, really unnecessary.
    But if that isn't the best "planned" pump house, I'll eat my hat! I can recall daily gazing upon the said pumphouse from my apartment window and thinking, "Gosh, if mendelman wasn't there to lay down the law, who knows what we could've have ended up with.. it may have even looked and functioned.....exactly the same!!"

    Mandatory commission level review is excpetionally burdensome for "as of right/permitted" uses and re-uses no matter the community size. But I can see where approving "as of right" developments can be tricky. Unless the code is written properly, administrative review only allows for "plan review". If it meets the code, approve it regardless of the bad layout and other issues.

    With commission review, I was able to comment on planning policy/theory that was not explicitly in the code and advise the citizen board to consider the broader issues.

    I give a 1 week turnaround or less with every "as of right" review. We're still rated in satisfaction surveys as "holding up the process", "difficult to work with" and not understanding the "time factor realities of development" 90% of the development in town is "as of right". I don't know what they expect, 2 hour turnaround? please.

    I'm all about staff review for permitted uses... conditional/special uses require further intensive review and should goto commission.

    ZG, "as of right" review here is "administrative site plan review", all others are forwarded to commissions.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    NH State Statutes allow for only very limited staff approvals....so any non-residential development (including multi-family development) is subject to Site Plan Review. No building permits EVER until a site plan is approved (and we require the site plans to be construction plans).
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  5. #5
    Site plans for:
    Each and every lot in a PUD, or
    Any lot in excess of 5 acres, or
    Any lot where the new construction constitutes the second (third, etc...) building on the site.

    If it meets all the development criteria, why have PC site plan review?
    Je suis Charlie

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    If it meets all the development criteria, why have PC site plan review?
    So in essence, a big box could be approved administratively if it met all the development criteria? Sounds like a recipe for a nightmare to me.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    No such thing here as a staff approval of any new construction over a 1 or 2 family house. My last town relied a lot more on staff approvals, but the quality of development was much lower.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner
    So in essence, a big box could be approved administratively if it met all the development criteria? Sounds like a recipe for a nightmare to me.
    If the use is permitted as of right and it meets all applicable development standards, where's the rub?
    Je suis Charlie

  9. #9
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    If the use is permitted as of right and it meets all applicable development standards, where's the rub?
    Is there a public hearing? I can't imagine any site plan happening without a public hearing....but maybe I'm just a product of the NH regulatory environment.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  10. #10
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    But the funny thing is that in my current position, many commercial properties do require PC review more often than not, because many are PUDs, which generally require amendments.

    I also prefer the "as of right" method because it creates a more dynamic, efficient development process and also makes the property owners/developers more comfortable because they don't have to expend large sums of money for plan creation without a real guarantee of approval, which for smaller businesses/developers is very discouraging.
    Last edited by mendelman; 03 Aug 2005 at 5:20 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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