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Thread: Developer requested work session

  1. #1
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    Developer requested work session

    I have a developer that has requested a work session with the Town Board. The purpose of the meeting is to introduce the project to the entire community, in public venue, prior to making formal application to the Town for the development. Does any one have procedures for such a meeting? I would like the meeting to be with the Planning Commission too. Do I have an ex parte issue as well? Lastly, should this be a Town or Developer hosted meeting?
    Any input would be appreciated...Thanks

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I don't have a set process for these, but I not only allow them, I encourage them; especially on a really big project

    Legally, if the permits needed are site plan or another discretionary permit, I think you're okay - if the permit is some kind of an appeal from the zoning, then you have more of an issue of working outside the process for the Board/Commission

    It should be either noted as a joint Board/Commission workshop or a Town sponsored neighborhood meeting - you notify abutters - set the parameters that the applicant is presenting and then public comment is accepted - note in the record that the meeting is non-binding

    You can get alot of issues out there, maybe even solve a few - for me, it lets me tell the applicant "see, I told you people were going to be mad" when they don't believe me in a pre-application meeting and sometimes I've been able to change a few sticking points on both sides

    But sometimes their value is harder to see and that's okay too

  3. #3
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    We tend to do developer meetings at the staff level and evaluate against City policies and standards.

    I tend to prefer Planning Commission and Council deliberations in the full light of advertised public hearings, rather than informal meetings.

    We occasionally do developer presentations to the Planning Commission or City Council when there is a large project or when there are policy issues at hand -- particularly considering whether to spend a lot of staff time on a project that may not get policy approval.

  4. #4
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    In NH, these are covered in the statutes under "Conceptual Discussions:" I've highlighted the pertinent stuff....

    CHAPTER 676
    ADMINISTRATIVE AND ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES
    Planning Board
    Section 676:4
    676:4 Board's Procedures on Plats.
    <snipped>

    II. A planning board may provide for preliminary review of applications and plats by specific regulations subject to the following:
    (a) Preliminary conceptual consultation phase. The regulations shall define the limits of preliminary conceptual consultation which shall be directed at review of the basic concept of the proposal and suggestions which might be of assistance in resolving problems with meeting requirements during final consideration. Such consultation shall not bind either the applicant or the board and statements made by planning board members shall not be the basis for disqualifying said members or invalidating any action taken. The board and the applicant may discuss proposals in conceptual form only and in general terms such as desirability of types of development and proposals under the master plan. Such discussion may occur without the necessity of giving formal public notice as required under subparagraph I(d), but such discussions may occur only at formal meetings of the board.

    (b) Design review phase. The board or its designee may engage in nonbinding discussions with the applicant beyond conceptual and general discussions which involve more specific design and engineering details; provided, however, that the design review phase may proceed only after identification of and notice to abutters, holders of conservation, preservation, or agricultural preservation restrictions, and the general public as required by subparagraph I(d). Statements made by planning board members shall not be the basis for disqualifying said members or invalidating any action taken.
    (c) Preliminary review shall be separate and apart from formal consideration under paragraph I, and the time limits for acting under subparagraph I(c) shall not apply until formal application is submitted under subparagraph I(b).
    III. A planning board may, by adopting regulations, provide for an expedited review and approval for proposals involving minor subdivisions which create not more than 3 lots for building development purposes or for proposals which do not involve creation of lots for building development purposes. Such expedited review may allow submission and approval at one or more board meetings, but no application may be approved without the full notice to the abutters, holders of conservation, preservation, or agricultural preservation restrictions, and public required under subparagraph I(d). A hearing, with notice as provided in subparagraph I(d), shall be held if requested by the applicant, abutters, or holders of conservation, preservation, or agricultural preservation restrictions any time prior to approval or disapproval or if the planning board determines to hold a hearing.
    IV. Jurisdiction of the courts to review procedural aspects of planning board decisions and actions shall be limited to consideration of compliance with applicable provisions of the constitution, statutes and regulations. The procedural requirements specified in this section are intended to provide fair and reasonable treatment for all parties and persons. The planning board's procedures shall not be subjected to strict scrutiny for technical compliance. Procedural defects shall result in the reversal of a planning board's actions by judicial action only when such defects create serious impairment of opportunity for notice and participation.
    "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
         
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    The first community I worked for as a planner required every new development to go through a PUD process starting with a conceptual reveiw by City Council. No decision was made at this step but a developer got a good idea as to proceed or not and what Council would be looking for in changes with the formal application. The PUD stardards were so loose that they could deny anything they didn't like. If the applicant got a good response from Council they went forward. Council could and would deny projects that came back to them as a preliminary PUD even if they liked the concept. A poor response from Council at concept review was hard to turn around and only the bone-head developers tried to fight them during a formal application.

    I would have the meeting hosted by the town, make it open to everyone in a public place, advertise it, take minutes, make the minutes public. You or your town attorney should coach the board before the meeting not to make statements that would appear to bind them to a decision one way or the other in the future. They shouldn't make any decisions at all. No conditions should be placed on a future approval by the board. If the plan comes back to them in the future they have to make their decision based on the information provided during the formal process and not on information provided during the concept review. This should help address ex parte issues.

  6. #6

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    I am a strong believer in pre-application conversations that help everyone get on the same page. They have worked well for me for years. They are now required for all subdivisions here in Williston and will soon be required for all other major projects. I do not however believe it is a good idea to have this conversation with the electeds. Do it with the staff and PC, or your equivalent thereof. It does not raise an ex parte issue because, while it may not be a "hearing" it has to be at a duly advertised public meeting of which there will be a record.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    we routinely have informal neighborhood meetings on projects we expect to raise public concerns. The city publishes public notice of the meeting in the newspaper (we have only one), and we come up with a mailing list of potentially interested parties to whom we mail a notice of the meeting.

    Sometimes nobody but the developer and staff show up, and sometimes we get neighbors, commissioners, assembly members, police and fire staff, biologists...it varies case by case, but I don't think it is ever a bad thing. I don't think that ex-parte contact is a problem as long as commissioners are there as members of the public, since no decision is being made and no application has been submitted--they are just getting informed. The only legal problem I can see (and I'm not a lawyer, so don't quote me on this) is if enough commissioners or assembly members show up that there is a quorum, in which case it needs to be advertised as a meeting of that board. As long as only one or two commissioners and/or assembly members are there, I don't think it would be a problem.

    One example of this was a meeting we had on a potential neighborhood parking district. One of our Planning Commissioners is also the "Special Projects Officer" for the City Manager's office, and she was heading up the meeting in that capacity. Another commissioner lives in the area being discussed, so she attended as a neighbor. We laughed about how if another commissioner showed up, we would have to cancel the meeting because that would be a quorum, but the meeting went ahead and we had a fairly productive discussion with neighbors and parking enforcement officers.

    But then, we're such a small town that commissioners have to be careful while grocery shopping to make sure that they aren't all in the produce section at the same time, or they might have to publish a public notice of the meeting...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I like the idea of pre-submission meetings, and the more public the better or people fear there is some kind of cover up. In a nearby community there was a proposed rezoning and subdivision that would double the size of a small village. The village president had the bright idea to have village board members come one by one to meet with the developer in her home to learn about the proposal, cause she knew a public meeting would be full of angry people. Boy did that blow up in her face.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Telemark
    I have a developer that has requested a work session with the Town Board. The purpose of the meeting is to introduce the project to the entire community, in public venue, prior to making formal application to the Town for the development. Does any one have procedures for such a meeting? I would like the meeting to be with the Planning Commission too. Do I have an ex parte issue as well? Lastly, should this be a Town or Developer hosted meeting?
    Any input would be appreciated...Thanks

    I don't like doing pre-submission meetings and this certainly shouldn't be city sponsored. Really what the developer is asking for, even though they won't admit it, is a pre-approval of the plan. If the developer wants to "present" it in a public venue, let them set the time and place (not city hall) and invite the public to view the plans. It should not be done with the Town Council in a formal setting. However, if the Council members want to attend the presentation, they certainly could, but make sure any notice requirements are satisified if you have laws regulating the number of Council members that can meet outside of a public forum.

    Not sure what you mean by your possibly having an ex parte issue.

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