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Thread: How do you judge allowed uses?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    How do you judge allowed uses?

    This hasn't come up, but it will eventually.

    Let's say you have a business zone that allows medium intensity retail uses. A person comes in with a proposed use that seems marginally too intense to you based on the interpretation of the ordinance, but you can find examples of similar uses existing in other places where that zone applies.

    You have to make a decision on whether or not the applicant's proposal fits in the zone. In your decision, which would you consider? The strict interpretation of the ordinance or the precidence of the existing businesses in the same district? If you judge that it isn't allowed, did you just create a bunch of legal non-conforming uses in your community?
    Back home just in time for hockey season!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    You want the real answer? I ask myself, "When my decision gets appealled, how stupid am I going to look trying to explain it?" Those pre-existing, more intensive uses may be able to be distinguished reasonably, on even be based on an interpretation of the law that no longer seems workable. I've even had to use something like, "Well, we tried it with those, but it just didn't work out right. So we're not doing that anymore."

    Strongest advice: Have a solid explanation for your decision. By solid I mean one that passes the straight-face test, and the red-face test, and the stink test.

    Next strongest advice: Rewrite your code to get rid of those overly vague terms.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    I would refer back to the comp or general plan that includes policies and findings for the land use designation that it is located in. I usually don't like an exhaustive list of uses in a zoning code, and would like to leave the planner some wiggle room for interpretation, but any approval for a use that is somewhat up to interpretation must meet the intent of the characteristics of that zone. Also, any zoning code should have definitions of what is an office use, retail use, service use, etc. The proposed use would then need to fit the parameters of that definition. In short, if you have strong definitions for general uses in your code, and if you have detailed characteristics for your land use designations, you should be able to interpret any proposal that comes your way, and be able to defend your recommendation.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cng View post
    I would refer back to the comp or general plan that includes policies and findings for the land use designation that it is located in. I usually don't like an exhaustive list of uses in a zoning code, and would like to leave the planner some wiggle room for interpretation, but any approval for a use that is somewhat up to interpretation must meet the intent of the characteristics of that zone. Also, any zoning code should have definitions of what is an office use, retail use, service use, etc. The proposed use would then need to fit the parameters of that definition. In short, if you have strong definitions for general uses in your code, and if you have detailed characteristics for your land use designations, you should be able to interpret any proposal that comes your way, and be able to defend your recommendation.
    And if all else fails, take it to the ZBA for a decision.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner View post
    And if all else fails, take it to the ZBA for a decision.
    Agree. It would most likely get there eventually, so get it over with early.

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