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Thread: Planner testifying in front of Board of Zoning Appeals

  1. #1

    Planner testifying in front of Board of Zoning Appeals

    I was curious to see how frequently, if ever, other planners ever testify at Board of Zoning Appeals hearings to refute facts stated by the applicants?

    My situation is that I wish I had been at a meeting where applicants said that I told them that they were permitted to use one type of paving material, which I specifically told them they could not use for large residential construction project.

    The Director from the Zoning department was sitting at the dais but did not make any remarks to the Board in my defense.

    The Board went on to approve the improvements including the paving material they were not supposed to have used, this being an issue of lot coverage and maximum impervious surface. Unfortunately I did not have any written evidence (emails or memoranda) of my numerous discussions with the applicant to submit to the record. I was surprised and upset by the outcome and granting of this variance that clearly went against the building permit we issued. The applicants claimed that the carbon copy of the building permit they had in their possession was illegible and therefore they did not know they were supposed to have used environmental grid pavers, which still seems to be negligence on their part? We said that they had all of the copies of the application in their possession when they left our office, and could have asked us if anything was unclear. Has anyone been in a similar situation?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by julkins08 View post
    The Director from the Zoning department was sitting at the dais but did not make any remarks to the Board in my defense.
    You have just learned the all important public sector planning trait of CYA. If you had received documentation showing that they knew what they were doing, that should have been provided to your boss so he could have publicly or privatley provided it to the board.
    Satellite City Enabler

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    We don't testify or give any recommendations to our Zoning Board of Appeals. We just give the facts of the request and attend for technical support.

    If they choose to approve something (for good or bad) that decision rests on their heads not staff's. You need to learn to let go some.

    As to you being able to refute potentially erroneous statements about your interaction with them, I'm afraid it is still probably up to board to decide the legitimacy of their statements. A good board would err on your side and require them to provide proof that they were explicitly allowed to use the non-compliant materials.

    The Zoning Director probably didn't speak up for you, because he/she probably didn't have any info from you verifying your position. No need to have staff adding to the hearsay.
    Last edited by mendelman; 29 Jul 2008 at 8:26 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  4. #4
    We don't testify per se, but we do provide a written staff report with an opinion and recommendations, we summarize the report at the meeting, and we will refute statements that contradict the code or other published/approved plans. My PC and ZBA have pretty good radar for "hearsay" and will discount it at the drop of a hat. Around here, it's always "I called down there and someone told me ....". They can never provide a name of that "someone".
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  5. #5
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    In ten years I''ve worked with three different BOA's or BZA's.

    Never have I testified or presented the agenda item. I provide(ed) staff assistance during staff questioning. I povide(ed) a staff report listing facts about the agenda item.

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I think we've gone over this issue before but here's my take: as a professional planner it's our role to conduct an analysis, give a presentation (testimony?), respond to public comments, and provide a recommendation for action. It's what they pay us for!

    Guess I've been employed in different work environments with different expectations. It surprises me there's a different way of operating.

    But then, as it turns out, I'm pretty different. And my big brother predicted that to my parents. Seriously.
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

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