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Thread: Wacky statements from applicants

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Wacky statements from applicants

    So, it's like this, see, I work in the planning department of a mid-sized city. I just started a couple of months ago after a seven-year stint in the private sector after a seven-year stint in the public sector - actually, I got my old job back but I digress - the point being that I've got a bit of experience on both sides of the zoning counter.

    Anyway, I had an applicant in recently with a proposal for our downtown area for a stand-alone big name drug store with a cookie-cutter suburban site plan - building in the middle surrounded by parking. Did not in any way, shape or form even come close to meeting our downtown design guidelines. I gave the engineer the heads up as to what my comments were going to be prior to the meeting - I hate to throw anyone under the bus as that's happened to me during my stay in the private sector.

    I go through the design guidelines (in place for almost ten years, now, in fact I mostly wrote them before I went over to the dark si...err, the private sector) and explain how the proposal doesn't meet them.

    At one point he looks me right in the eye and asks if I'm willing to guarantee the success of the project if they follow the design guidelines.

    Without skipping a beat I ask him, "Seriously? Are you seriously asking me that? Are you willing to guarantee the success of any project you work on?"

    The point of my being on both side of the zoning counter is that never in a million years would I pose a question like that to a City official when I was in the private sector.

    That got me thinking about all the other wacky things I've heard over the years in the course of my career.

    I'm not sure if this sort of thread exists (I didn't see one) or if this is the appropriate place for it so, moderator, move it elsewhere if need be, but I'd be interested to hear what other planners have been hit with in the realm of wacky, bizarre, politically incorrect (I've got on in that vein but I'll let others have a turn first) and how you either (1) dealt with it and/or (2) how you wish you'd dealt with it.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Probably one of the worst came not from the private sector, but from a DNR regulator. The city sought to reconfigure part of a man-made wetland it had created, in order to accommodate a new manufacturing plant. The regulator was a fanatical "no net loss" type. (We did propose to replace the wetland - which we had created - with more than would be lost.) His comment? Along the lines of just reconfigure the building so that it is stepped back. The plant was designed to accommodate 300' assembly lines that could not be broken up or built in a zig-zag pattern, which would have been required in a "stepped back" building.

    ...There was the guy who was told he needed to provide more green space to expand his eyesore building, and prceeded to paint his parking lot....
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I have a lady hasseling me to no end on a requirement to put in a handicap parking spot on her property that she wants to rent out for a business. It's federal law lady, I can't exempt you because you don't want to spend the money.

    That's crazy, I would never think that asking a planner to personally guarantee a project would be ok, sounds like an insecure engineer!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  4. #4
    Some of the things I've heard over the years:

    There needs to be a zoning ordinance against illegal aliens (from Mars).

    Those yellow sodium vapor lights are meant to:
    Destroy our neighborhood by making it look like the ghetto
    Stop crime because young criminals don't like how they look in that light
    (And now I hear that some people like the yellow lights so much they are opposing the new LED lights)

    There is no problem renting out a basement with no windows because the tenants got all the sunlight they needed as children

    There is no need for a sink and a bathroom at a restaurant because the workers can work short shifts.

    If you don't approve my application today, I'll sue you and be able to break ground by next week.

  5. #5
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    I am a planner who has worked both sides of the counter, so to speak, but am currently serving as an elected city councilmember. One of my favorite things I periodically hear are the developers who call me and say "If you tell me you will support this, then I will spend the $250 to submit an application." So I am to commit to a decision before I know what you want to do, before staff has had a chance to review your application and before the public has a chance to comment? Are you kidding? I may have been stupid enough to run for office, but I ain't THAT stupid.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HillSlug View post
    I am a planner who has worked both sides of the counter, so to speak, but am currently serving as an elected city councilmember. One of my favorite things I periodically hear are the developers who call me and say "If you tell me you will support this, then I will spend the $250 to submit an application." So I am to commit to a decision before I know what you want to do, before staff has had a chance to review your application and before the public has a chance to comment? Are you kidding? I may have been stupid enough to run for office, but I ain't THAT stupid.
    Its only $250 to submit an application? Ya'll are a bargain!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  7. #7
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HillSlug View post
    So I am to commit to a decision before I know what you want to do, before staff has had a chance to review your application and before the public has a chance to comment? Are you kidding? I may have been stupid enough to run for office, but I ain't THAT stupid.
    Post of the DAY!
    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

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    That's crazy, I would never think that asking a planner to personally guarantee a project would be ok, sounds like an insecure engineer!
    Works both ways... the default language requested by a local city for traffic management plans for schools says something like "I, engineer #xx, certify that no queuing will occur on the city streets". I have worked long and hard on my models of how school queuing operates, but about 90% of it relates more with how the school runs their operation, rather than the plan that I prepare. Certify is a big ugly legal word that we cannot use when we don't have control over the actual operation. So instead I "certify that the results indicate that no queuing should occur on the city streets". I shudder when I see some big declarative statements go out under arch and engineers seals.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Text on Variance Application Form and applicant's written response in italics:


    Reason Variance is needed: Does not conform to regulations.

    Reason Variance is needed: No room to extend the roof line without the Variance.

    Reason Variance is needed: The current setback requirement of 20 feet limits my ability to enjoy same.

    Justification: (Note: Non-conforming uses in the same or other zones is not grounds for issuance of a Variance.): Other property owners have requested and have been granted variances for a multitude of reasons without special privileges.

    Justification: (Note: Non-conforming uses in the same or other zones is not groungs for issuance of a Variance.): Applicants in the same district have the ablilty to apply for a variance if needed.

    Justification: (Note: Non-conforming uses in the same or other zones is not groungs for issuance of a Variance.): Lot was not platted so that a house could be built to the standard of the development.

    Justification: Conditions peculiar to this property (not caused by the applicant) that result in unfair hardship to applicant: There is no unfair hardship.

    Justification: The drive-thru is prototypical of "X company."

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