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Thread: Variances and subdivisions

  1. #1
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Variances and subdivisions

    I would like to know how other jurisdictions address variances to the subdivision regulations during the public meeting for approval or denial of a subdivsion.

    At the public meeting (for minor subdivisions) or public hearing (major subdivisions), staff presents the subdivsion and variance and people are allowed to comment.

    It is our policy for staff not to address the merits of the variance. It is a political thing.

    It has long been our policy - at the advice of legal counsel - that the governing body at decision time, first address whether to approve or deny the variance. We've done it this way because if the variance is denied, then the conditions of approval often have to be changed to require the applicant(s) to follow the regulation they sought a variance from. Also, how can the governing body vote to approve a subdivision that is in violation of the subdivision regulations?

    After they have ruled on the variance, then they move on to consider the subdivision approval or denial.

    One of our commissioners wants to approve or deny the subdivision first, then move on a decision to approve or deny the variance. It is a little complicated. It is a pissing match between him and the other two commissioners on just about everything. I would like to know how other jurisdictions do it, so the next time I am presenting I have knowledge of how others do it. I am tired of being the punching bag who gets railed on by the lone commissioner in a public setting because he doesn't like the way we've always done business.


    What is your procedure for approval or denial of variances to subdivision regulations? Before subdivision approval or denial? After? Some other method?

    Thanks.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    I would like to know how other jurisdictions address variances to the subdivision regulations during the public meeting for approval or denial of a subdivsion.

    What is your procedure for approval or denial of variances to subdivision regulations? Before subdivision approval or denial? After? Some other method?

    Thanks.
    You already know the answer: the variance request must come first. If the plat includes the variance it cannot be approved until the variance issues are addressed.
    What I do not understand is why are there variances? In my career I have only had one. That was due to the size/confiuration of the parcel causing it to be undevelopable unless the street ROW was lessened and/or front setbacks were shorter. Perhaps you can find common threads among your variance requests ... and adjust your regulations accordingly.

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    You are paid to express your knowledge of planning, zoning, and the long-term implications of variances. You should give a staff recommendation on all variances. Also, I would suggest you have meetings with the developers prior to any public meeting in order to discuss these issues. There is really no reason a variance should be issued for a subdivision because the property owner knows the rules going in. Any hardship is self-inflicted.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  4. #4
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Can I ask a really dumb question? Why would any jurisdiction process a greenfield subdivision that doesn't conform with the subdivision and zoning ordinances? Everywhere I've worked, we wouldn't even accept the application if it didn't conform to the code.

    But I'm getting old, I've lost some gray matter, maybe the profession has passed me by and I'm just a traditionalist and ya'll have new fangled ideas. Now git off my lawn.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    Can I ask a really dumb question? Why would any jurisdiction process a greenfield subdivision that doesn't conform with the subdivision and zoning ordinances? Everywhere I've worked, we wouldn't even accept the application if it didn't conform to the code.

    But I'm getting old, I've lost some gray matter, maybe the profession has passed me by and I'm just a traditionalist and ya'll have new fangled ideas. Now git off my lawn.
    In this particular case, it is not a greenfield subdivision. It is the subdivision of a lot with three dwellings into two lots - one SFR lot and the second, a two-unit mobile home park.

    Nor does our department have the abilty to turn down an application because it doesn't conform to the subdivision regulations. The governing body does not support that. The building industry and the realtors would crucify us and the governing body. Hence a variance process to deal with the myriad of conditions found in our rural western county that do not fit into neat boxes.

    We are a rural county in the West with very little zoning, no building permits and poor infrastructure. It ain't pretty. I don't necessarily like it. It is what it is. I have worked in Alaska and Montana and variances are part of the process.

    And I would also suggest you git off my lawn, cuz I wouldn't want you to step in the deer poop.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    ......Nor does our department have the abilty to turn down an application because it doesn't conform to the subdivision regulations. The governing body does not support that. The building industry and the realtors would crucify us and the governing body...
    Ah, that reminds me of the short period of my life in that oddly shaped state to the west of you.

    Hold the pubic hearing for the variance first and then the subdivision. Oh hell, what's the difference? It's going to be approved in any order.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Don't you have standards for variances in your ordinance? Or is it just variances are allowed if the applicant has enough political pull? You should apply the variance standards to the variance request, and then the subdivision standards to the subdivision request. Otherwise you're first approving a subdivision that doesn't meet your standards and that is a winner on appeal for anyone opposing the subdivision. And the whole "political variance" thing sounds like a breeding ground for appeals. But it must be nice to be able to sit back on variances and let the others deal with the sticky issues of a variance. As for our practice, we do it the way I have said: variance first, subdivision second. Typically we would do it in a single hearing. If the variance is disapproved, then the subdivision is dispapproved for not meeting the standards.

  8. #8
    In Indiana, the variances are (were) the exclusive domain of the Board of Zoning Appeals and the subdivision was that of the Plan Commission. We always had the BZA hold the public hearing for the variances before docketing the subdivision. If the Variances were granted, then the Public Hearing for the Primary Plat was held. If the BZA denied, no subdivision until it met the base land use district standards.

    A case originating in The Town Next DoorTM got the process above scrambled up, when the state Court of Appeals didn't understand the process. A recent re-write of the state statute embodied it as law. I haven't had to deal with it yet, but think it might well become a massive headache.
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    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    The town I did my internship at (I know), was the wealthiest city in our state and there were quite a bit of variances that processed and approved. Unfortunately, I think the size and influence of residents makes variances largely political in most cases. The city was also landlocked so I think that increased the number of variances granted.

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Off-topic:
    Doberman, welcome to Cyburbia. It's always good to see fresh blood on this website.

    Also, feel free to ask me to make you an avatar that looks like your user ID.

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    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Haha thank you for the welcome, I am learning a lot here so far.

    Yeah if you could just go ahead and make me an avatar that has a doberman breathing fire, holding an AK-47, whilst riding the lightning that would be great.

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    Yeah if you could just go ahead and make me an avatar that has a doberman breathing fire, holding an AK-47, whilst riding the lightning that would be great.
    Adult Doberman, or puppy?

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    Yeah if you could just go ahead and make me an avatar that has a doberman breathing fire, holding an AK-47, whilst riding the lightning that would be great.
    The beast says his looks alone do the job.
    Tell me if the beast is wrong.

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    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    Very nice, but how do I change it?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doberman View post
    Very nice, but how do I change it?
    Off-topic:
    look at the upper right corner of your screen at the top of the page and click on 'control panel' and then 'edit avatar'
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Faust_Motel's avatar
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    Oh, Montana.

    Here in commie pinko New England we have a unified ordinance, and variances have to meet very, very high criteria. Basically, if you can develop the property AT ALL without a variance, you ain't getting one. In our system you could have 100 undeveloped acres in a residential zone with 60 feet of frontage and a requirement for 64 feet to build a public road for the subdivision. If an applicant came in like that, the answer would likely be "sorry bub, you get the maximum number of houses you can have on a shared driveway, (because a driveway doesn't require 64 feet of frontage) but you need those 4 feet to do any bigger of a subdivision. No variance for you. Go talk to your neighbors about a BLA or builfd your five houses on a shared drive and be happy."

    But I'm thinking about this in terms of findings and conclusions- it seems to me that if you can't make findings that a variance is approveable, everything stops until that gets worked out. So you do the variance first.

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