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Thread: Variance checklist for planning commission members

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Variance checklist for planning commission members

    I am proposing a checklist be compiled for Variances that come before our Planning Commission members. This would be specifically aimed at helping new members.

    What should be included in such a checklist?

    Is there already a specific checklist somewhere that could be used as a guide?

    I will propose to do another checklist for Site Plan Reviews and one for Re-Zoning. Those three seem to be the most common items that come before us.

    I think the objective is not to duplicate Planning Director reviews, but in some way to help us understand what our role is, and to assure the city that the Planning Director has reviewed the application sufficiently and his recommendation is complete and fair. Our Planning Commission does not have final determination, but only makes recommendations to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for their final decision.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    I am proposing a checklist be compiled for Variances that come before our Planning Commission members. This would be specifically aimed at helping new members.

    What should be included in such a checklist?

    Is there already a specific checklist somewhere that could be used as a guide?

    I will propose to do another checklist for Site Plan Reviews and one for Re-Zoning. Those three seem to be the most common items that come before us.

    I think the objective is not to duplicate Planning Director reviews, but in some way to help us understand what our role is, and to assure the city that the Planning Director has reviewed the application sufficiently and his recommendation is complete and fair. Our Planning Commission does not have final determination, but only makes recommendations to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for their final decision.
    Seeing if I'm reading this right; the checklist would be to help a board/commission member perform their own sort of independent mini-review? I've never used a checklist like that, but within my reports I generally go over each aspect or test (especially with a variance) so that they have a good idea where the application intersects with the code and either passes or fails point by point.

    Am I reading your intent correctly?
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Yes. We have a 12 member Planning Commission, but they are not necessarily familiar with planning, construction, realestate, utilities, engineering, plot plans, floodplains, etc. and our Zoning Manual is pretty thick now. I am trying to simplify their learning process essentially for the newer members to help them understand what they should be assessing.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    OK. That makes some sense. Like I said, I've never seen or used a checklist in that way, but maybe having something for them to use external to staff reports isn't a bad thought. I've just always relied on my staff reports and sort of "in-meeting" training on specific types of issues to do that job.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  5. #5
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Our code will list specific findings that are required in order to recommend approval. Depending on the type of project, our staff reports will specifically list those findings, and then provide a detailed response/analysis to support each individual finding. This way, staff can keep the discussion focused and provide information for those who are unfamiliar with planning.

    1. That there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property or to the intended use that do not apply generally to other properties or uses in the same vicinity and zone

    Response:

    2. That such variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right possessed by other properties in the same vicinity and zone district, but which is denied to the property in question;

    Response:

    3. That the granting of such variance will not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvements of others in the vicinity;

    Response:

    4. That the granting of such variance will not adversely affect the general plan of the city of sleepytown.

    Response:
    Did this cover your general intent?
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Yes, as far as conclusions go. Good positive conclusions for findings.

    Now, do you (or anyone on the forum) have a specific checklist of items to be investigated (as a guide to PC members) to reach those conclusions?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Yes, as far as conclusions go. Good positive conclusions for findings.

    Now, do you (or anyone on the forum) have a specific checklist of items to be investigated (as a guide to PC members) to reach those conclusions?
    Urus and Dw914er covered it pretty well. You cover items in a staff report and specific responses for a finding to approve a variance. In general you really should steer clear from variances. If they are too easy to do or you do them a lot than it really means your code section(s) need to get modified. Our variance is very specific for findings. I avoid variances like the plague.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    dw914er said:

    Depending on the type of project, our staff reports will specifically list those findings, and then provide a detailed response/analysis to support each individual finding.
    Are your staff reports in the form of a checklist (to show what you checked)?

    If so, is that a checklist (or similar to a checklist) that should be used by a Planning Commission to assure that they are aware of the specific things that should be checked?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I stumbled across this while looking for other articles.
    http://www.co.madison.il.us/planning...Guidelines.pdf
    It might help.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Yes, as far as conclusions go. Good positive conclusions for findings.

    Now, do you (or anyone on the forum) have a specific checklist of items to be investigated (as a guide to PC members) to reach those conclusions?
    We do not have a specific checklist or some sort of narrowly definied threshold test for the different types of projects that we use as a handy tool for our PC. We will just state the specific finding, and then will use our analysis to show how the project is consistent (or not consistent) with that required finding. We may have a summary statement such as "The project is consistent with this finding" to help highlight our analysis. The hearing body can choose to agree with our recommendation, given the facts provided.

    Something such as a variance will usually be site specific anyways, so I cannot really think of a threshold test that could be universal.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

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