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and so it ends... NOPE... It is going to go on...

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,716
Points
46
Last week, I posted a link to an article. Last night... well... I will let you read. Our Senior Planner does the ethical thing, and might get fired.

"City planners reject plant that would employ 220
After the vote on the KVP plan, Councilman Michael D. Schorn calls the planning commission a disgrace and demands planner Karl Graybill's resignation.

By Jason Brudereck
Reading Eagle
A plan for a company to open a $6 million plant on Morgantown Road in Reading was unanimously rejected Tuesday by the city planning commission, which then was subjected to a half-hour tirade from other city officials and company representatives.
As some commission members and city planner Karl Graybill tried to leave the meeting in City Hall, City Councilman Michael D. Schorn followed and called them a disgrace and demanded Graybill's resignation.

The planners said the facility proposed by KVP Inc. is too intensive for a largely natural setting, though it once was the site of the city sewage treatment plant.

Critics of the vote called it a blow to economic redevelopment and said it was unreasonable because the size of the plant proposed for the 9-acre site had been reduced from 150,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet.

Albert R. Boscov, the project's coordinator, said he'll try to convince KVP officials to revise their proposal and not drop it because of the vote, which cannot be overruled by council.

Last month council approved using $2.4 million in federal and state grants and loans to fund the project.

Boscov, chairman of Boscov's Inc., tried unsuccessfully to keep order among a dozen men at the meeting.

“Well, they just don't care about the city of Reading,” Mayor Joseph D. Eppihimer said after the vote.

Other city officials loudly lamented that KVP won't be able to relocate 220 employees from an overcrowded hangar at the Reading Regional Airport in Bern Township.

Schorn followed commission member James D. Strohecker into a hallway after one shouting match.

“You're a disgrace,” Schorn yelled.

Strohecker turned and replied, “It's a disgrace to show up to a meeting when you just want to intimidate people.”

Schorn went back inside the meeting to point at Graybill, call him an unprofessional disgrace and demand his resignation.

After the meeting Graybill said his recommendation to deny KVP's proposal was based on city plans for the area, which do not include large industrial uses such as the KVP plant, which would manufacture conveyor belts.

“I don't appreciate a councilman accusing me of being very unprofessional when I built my reputation on being professional,” Graybill said. “It's unprofessional of Councilman Schorn to say that to me and call for my resignation just because he doesn't agree with the planning staff's recommendation.”

Planning commission member Michael E. Lauter said the panel had to consider the long-term implication of allowing a largely natural setting to be replaced with a large manufacturing facility.

The commission voted 4-2 last week to refuse to review the preliminary plans because members wanted to review more information about the project, which is in a tax-incentive Keystone Opportunity Zone.

Bernard Gerber, a retired lawyer who worked on the project for free, said the commission's vote to reject the plant meant more than not bringing 220 jobs to Reading from the Bern Township facility.

“What we may have witnessed here tonight is 200 lives destroyed, a company destroyed, the start of several lawsuits and a death knell for future development opportunities in Reading,” he said.

Gerber said KVP may be in a hopeless situation because it closed its facility in California and hired about 185 more employees in anticipation of opening in Reading.

KVP officials declined to comment after the vote."



What are your thoughts?
 
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Jeff

Cyburbian
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4,161
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27
Thats a disgrace. Government by grown ups with the maturity level of a 12 year old. Mike, get out while you can. There are alot of better places to work and advance your career.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
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3,195
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26
Mike, get out while you can
My sentiments exactly.

“What we may have witnessed here tonight is 200 lives destroyed, a company destroyed, the start of several lawsuits and a death knell for future development opportunities in Reading,” he said.
OH MY GOD - human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

You looking to come back to MI? Battle Creek is hiring. Let me know if your interested in the details.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
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25
What a shame. It seems from the article that neither the city or the company was well prepared for this outcome. That's just bad business for the company to close up shop in California and move to Reading (on the taxpayers buck) but have no alternative sites should their original choice not pan out. Gotta love Pennsylvania politics.

I agree with Mike, start sending out resumes.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,853
Points
39
Whoa, every planner's nightmare! Where were the city planner's bosses? Are they defending him?

Sounds like the city council made too many promises to the developer.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,716
Points
46
Here is the bad thing. Karl Graybill is the senior planner, and our CD director wanted KVP to come to Reading, and we know that he is going to come down on the staff. We have 3 planners, the other two work with the planning commission, and I work with some of the other boards. But I am still going to get yelled at for this one. It is going to become the CD director against the planning staff. Some times I get nervous around here, with some of the stuff going on.

All I am thinking is, here is a guy who is a millionaire business owner, trying to lure another business into the city, even though it is bad for the city to be put in that location. (but we do have a location that would be good and we have told our CD director about it several times)

Another thing that makes me nervous is that our CD director lives in another county, even though our city charter requires that Management live within city limits.

PLEASE... IF ANYONE KNOWS OF ANY JOBS IN THE MID WEST, (IL, MI, WI) PLEASE IM ME THE INFORMATION SO I CAN GET OUT OF HERE.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
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25
Every job applicant complains about "politics" at their previous job, but this article is what you need, objective proof that its an unprofessional environment to start your career.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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10,624
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34
Sorry to hear Mike, it sounds bad. In the Kiosk there's a link for a good job with Waukesha County that Im sure you're qualified for (although I have my issues with that organization, its not nearly as F-es upo as Reading).

As for the CD Director and staff planner conflict, and respectable CD Director, when oppossed to his staff's opinion, would not send them into the wolves. A respectable CD Director wouldbe present, lead the debate, and present the case for the business, address the staff objection, and have the objecting staff present but not front line.

El Guapo - maybe we should email Graybill and the CD Director and ask them to post a rebuttal here! ;) Just kidding Mike, we wont get you in trouble. At least not today....
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
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19,716
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46
Chet said:
El Guapo - maybe we should email Graybill and the CD Director and ask them to post a rebuttal here! ;) Just kidding Mike, we wont get you in trouble. At least not today....
Your funny, but I do think that it would be a good post.... and I can assure you that Graybill would win.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Yes, I have seen citizens yell and scream, but never the leaders. Ouch.

Planning is a constant struggle between what is “right” and what is “wanted” by the “leaders”, this is an unfortunate truth I came to realize all to quickly after I left the idealistic classroom a little over a year ago. *sigh*
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
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25,089
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54
that wasn't the same city council member who approved the city plan for that area,
surely not?
 
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Queen B

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michaelskis said:
PLEASE... IF ANYONE KNOWS OF ANY JOBS IN THE MID WEST, (IL, MI, WI) PLEASE IM ME THE INFORMATION SO I CAN GET OUT OF HERE. [/B]
Pardon me, in your moment of crisis, but when did IL, MI, WI become Mid West. There is a position open for City Planner in Emporia, KS that has been open forever. Now that is Mid West and not flat!!!

I think any of us in the public sector have a bit of fear that things can turn this way for us to. I hope things are better today by the light of day.
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
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planning+politics

As a student in an internship, I've come to realize that this type of situation is the one thing that schools don't prepare you for. They like to say that planners should be immune from politics, but in the real world citizens & community leaders constantly try to influence every recommendation from the planning department/ planning commission. I never realized how hard it would be to stay objective with all of these people pushing their interests. At least your Senior Planner had the balls to stand up for the right thing, despite the possible consequences. It's embarrassing to have leaaders act in such a manner; our council actually got into shouting match between each other! As for jumping ship, you ever thought about Texas? There are a few mid-level openings in the Dallas area if your sick of the ice & rust! Of course, then you have to deal with Texas politics!
 

michaelskis

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I am sorry if I made it sound like MI, WI, and IL where the only parts of the mid west. I picked those because I grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and my friends and family are all there. I would love to get in some place like Ann Arbor or Lansing area, or Madison.

I was fortunate enough that in my planning education, we had to attend tons of planning, city council, and ZHB meetings. We saw the politics, and even had to work with them on many, many occasions. But, I never thought that it could get this bad in a city of less that 100,000.
 

biscuit

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michaelskis said:
But, I never thought that it could get this bad in a city of less that 100,000.
Ah grasshopper, you have much to learn. ;)

Having worked for or in smaller cities and towns for most of my (short) career I can tell you that the politics, backstabbing and under-handed dealings are often much worse in these places than in larger cities. Local politics can get very nasty, especially in economic development situations such as this where a lot of promises and back-room deals often made. Don't be suprised if you hear that some were made between the CD Director, some council members and the company owner.
 

Jeff

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biscuit said:
Ah grasshopper, you have much to learn. ;)

Having worked for or in smaller cities and towns for most of my (short) career I can tell you that the politics, backstabbing and under-handed dealings are often much worse in these places than in larger cities. Local politics can get very nasty, especially in economic development situations such as this where a lot of promises and back-room deals often made. Don't be suprised if you hear that some were made between the CD Director, some council members and the company owner.
Couldn't have said that any better myself. This little rinky dink towns where neighbors are on councils and boards together are full of disgusting politics and personal agendas.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
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5,984
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Queen B said:
Pardon me, in your moment of crisis, but when did IL, MI, WI become Mid West. There is a position open for City Planner in Emporia, KS that has been open forever. Now that is Mid West and not flat!!!

I think any of us in the public sector have a bit of fear that things can turn this way for us to. I hope things are better today by the light of day.
What's the job description & pay? I have a friend that might be interested.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
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6,544
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Wow that was quite the article. Sorry that you have to work in an environment like that... it's definitely worse than anything I've ever seen.

And the planner has quite the cajones: “I don't appreciate a councilman accusing me of being very unprofessional when I built my reputation on being professional,” Graybill said. “It's unprofessional of Councilman Schorn to say that to me and call for my resignation just because he doesn't agree with the planning staff's recommendation.” I tend to shy away from media in cases like this... so he definitely stood up for himself much better than I would have.
 

jordanb

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3,232
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Huston said:
Planning is a constant struggle between what is “right” and what is “wanted” by the “leaders”
You're assuming that the planners know what is right and the elected leaders don't. The planners are probably right a majority of the time, but by no means are they always, or even almost always right.

The article dosen't say enough about the plans to give the reader a feel one way or the other about it, but it looks like the planner's main argument was that the area was too "natural" (whatever that means) and that it wasn't in accordance with the master plan. On the surface that seems like shaky ground to me, especially if the area was a former water plant.

Er, I will say that the Mayor seems like a real peice of work though, completly unprofessional.
 

nerudite

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jordanb said:
On the surface that seems like shaky ground to me, especially if the area was a former water plant.
Suprisingly, if done right, wastewater treatment plants are not *that* intrusive to surrounding natural areas. A plant with 200+ employees would have serious transportation impacts and we have no idea what type of infrastructure improvements may be needed and what the impacts would be to the natural areas. I've seen a few wastewater treatment plants reclaimed for use as recreation areas because it was inappropriate for other urban uses... probably for similar reasons as Reading's denial.
 

NHPlanner

A shadow of my former self
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jordanb said:
.. and that it wasn't in accordance with the master plan. On the surface that seems like shaky ground to me, especially if the area was a former water plant.
Most states will tell you in the statutes that a master plan is a prerequisite for zoning, and that Planning Boards/Commissions are SUPPOSED to follow the master plan when making decisions on development. Doesn't sound shaky in the bit to me.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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34
That is bad. Do you have a professional economic development director? It does not sound like it. If you did, s/he should have been working with the planning staff from the start of the project to know whether or not a site is suitable before showing it, and then serve as an ombudsman between the plan commission and company to smooth out any differences before it goes to a public meeting. As an economic developer, I can't put the blame on the planning staff. It sounds like your ED people are incompetent.
 

H

Cyburbian
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2,850
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24
jordanb said:
You're assuming that the planners know what is right and the elected leaders don't. The planners are probably right a majority of the time, but by no means are they always, or even almost always right.
hince why I put "" around "right". :)
 

SW MI Planner

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3,195
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26
The article just said a *plan* was denied. What kind of plan? I had asked that in the orginal question - was the site zoned appropriately? Because in MI anyway, if the zoning is correct, we can't deny a site plan unless it fails to meet our requirements for parking, landscaping, etc. etc. etc. You could however deny a rezoning request if the if the proposed zoning was not appropriate for the parcel and the surrounding area.

In this situation, if the zoning was appropriate for the proposed use, the PC should have had foresight to rezone it to a less intensive use if they didn't want a factory in there.

Boscov, chairman of Boscov's Inc., tried unsuccessfully to keep order among a dozen men at the meeting.
That's part of the problem - where were the women!! Of course, they're not causing the problems!!
 

michaelskis

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I would not be surprised if there where some back door deals and brown bags involved in this case. I am not going to make accusations, but we all know that money talks.

Our CD director was a former banker. He has done work with the sate of NJ. The part that hurts is he did not support the staff. He has worked against the staff at all cost on the project. It is to the point where we try to make recommendations to him about development possibilities, he just looks at the $ signs. He once told me during a meeting, that we have to stop doing this planning non-cense and start looking at the financial aspect of the city. I think that he does not even know what we do from day to day.

On the other hand, the guy who is expected to be Mayor (99%) chance thinks that Karl did the right thing, and I have this feeling that because of this development, he now realizes who is working for the good of the city.

So here is the break down. CD director, Boscov, KVP, the Mayor, and Council VS. the planning staff and planning commission.
 

nerudite

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michaelskis said:
On the other hand, the guy who is expected to be Mayor (99%) chance thinks that Karl did the right thing, and I have this feeling that because of this development, he now realizes who is working for the good of the city.
Hmmmmm... maybe it's worth sticking around for that election then. Having a pro-planning mayor is always a bonus. We have one right now, and boy is it great.
 

mike gurnee

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Ah, been there many times. I agree with ALL of the above, especially that the director should have not leave the staff twisting in the wind.

Another point: If the planning board is that powerful (cannot be over ruled by the governing body), the applicant should have done much more with that board. I remember a case where the state, county, and city offered all sorts of enticements for a certain industry, all the deals were cut--except no one brought the planning commission in on the deal--and it was denied. Applicants: cover your bases.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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michaelskis said:
I would not be surprised if there where some back door deals and brown bags involved in this case. I am not going to make accusations, but we all know that money talks.
Its amazes me how stupid people are in this respect. I just got out of a meeting with a developer that offered to contribute $100,000 to our conservation program in exchange for higher density development of his property. We advised him that, although there would be no personal gain on our part, it didnt pass the smell test and sure as heck sounded like a bribe.
 

donk

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$100,000 to our conservation program in exchange for higher density development of his property.
Isn't that called transfer of development rights.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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donk said:
Isn't that called transfer of development rights.
Nope. TDR programs usually have defined sending and receiving areas. Let's say zoning permits 4 dwelling units per acre (8 per hectare) in an R-1 zoning district. There are two 10 acre (20 hectare) parcels zoned R-1, one in a sending area, and the other in a receiving area. The developer of a parcel in the receiving area buys the development rights from a property owner in the sending area, so they can develop the parcel in the receiving area at 8 dwelling units per acre. After the TDR, the property owner in the sending area can't develop their property at all.

Some TDR programs have a timed "lock", permitting development in 40 or 50 years for property owners in the sending area that gave up their development rights. I won't get into "development banks".

What Chet describes sounds like a bribe to the local government.; change the zoning/comp plan, and we'll give you some money. This type of bribe is often permitted in certain parts of some zoning codes, like tree preservation requirements; we'll let you cut down some trees, but you either have to replace caliper inch for caliper inch, or contribute funds to a tree replacement fund that is used to buy saplings for city parks and rights-of-way.

In the town where I worked, we made an arrangement with an RV dealer that desperately wanted to annex a parceel adjacent to the town and locate their business there, despite the town's "no new motor vehicle related uses" policy. What happened was that the RV dealer agreed to remove two billboards from the property, build in compliance with the town''s tough architectural design and sign requirements, and extend sewer from the adjacent city to the unsewered town. This would make the town more attractive, and make the commercial district attractive for more than just vehicle-related uses, both long-range planning goals. In return, the zoning code was amended to permit PUDs (the old zoning code didn't permit them, and the code I wrote wasn't implemented yet), allowing RV sales as a permitted use, as long as a portion of the annexed property was devoted to sit-down restaurant uses. (The town had no restaurants, and there were no quality sit-down restaurants nearby.)

Iffy, I know, but we thought the cost, being the presence of a large RV dealer, was far less than the benefit, which was the potential to create a commercial district that would be viable for more than just vehicle-related uses.
 

jordanb

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Chet said:
Its amazes me how stupid people are in this respect. I just got out of a meeting with a developer that offered to contribute $100,000 to our conservation program in exchange for higher density development of his property.
That sounds like killing two birds with one stone to me. ;) It does look fishy though.
 

jordanb

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NHPlanner said:
Most states will tell you in the statutes that a master plan is a prerequisite for zoning, and that Planning Boards/Commissions are SUPPOSED to follow the master plan when making decisions on development.
That sounds terrible! Does it allow for amendment of the plan at all? I don't really see how the drafters of a plan can really predict what the needs of the city will be years down the road. I've always thought master plans were optional guidelines for city development, like Burnham's plan for Chicago. A lot of it was implemented, but some wasn't, and the city wasn't legally obligated to follow it.
 

donk

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Dan, on the TDR I was joking. My response to the applicant would have not been as polite as Chet's.


JordanB, where to start? There are too many items to address.....
 

ecofem

Cyburbian
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206
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9
donk said:



JordanB, where to start? There are too many items to address.....

heh. my thought exactly. perhaps a stint in the Comp Planning section of one of Florida's local governments would help.
 

SW MI Planner

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26
OK, so I'll go there ;)

I don't really see how the drafters of a plan can really predict what the needs of the city will be years down the road.
Isn't that the whole point of planning?

I've always thought master plans were optional guidelines for city development,
Absolutely not. What's the purpose of a plan if your not going to follow it? Here, a master plan is usually a 20 year plan, and is supposed to be reviewed on a regular basis, say every 5 years, more or less as needed. That doesn't mean that you have to accomplish every single thing listed in the master plan, but if you want to do something (enact a local historic district, for example) it better be in the plan.
 

Jeff

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SW MI Planner said:
Absolutely not. What's the purpose of a plan if your not going to follow it?
They make really neat book ends.

You've never actually been to PA have you? ;)
 

michaelskis

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That is funny... But sadly true.

It now sounds like it is not over. 2 members of the planning commission are up for reappointment, and there is still one spot that has not been filled...

I wonder what will happen on Monday, and who will they try to get to change there vote so that they will get it to pass??
 

Jeff

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Doesn't the Planning Commission have a Solicitor (lawyer) that could kind of back this guy up? It seems like he is left holding the bag with defending himself and that doesn't seem right at all.
 

nerudite

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michaelskis said:
It now sounds like it is not over. 2 members of the planning commission are up for reappointment, and there is still one spot that has not been filled...

I wonder what will happen on Monday, and who will they try to get to change there vote so that they will get it to pass??
Um... if there is a vacancy, what does that do? They would have to re-open the hearing and then give all the testimony again, right? A new commissioner wouldn't be able to vote on something when he wasn't present to witness the testimony. Hell, they even have to abstain from voting on meeting minutes if they weren't at the meeting.
 

donk

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Mike D. observed
It seems like he is left holding the bag
Isn't that the role of the public sector planner? A staff person that the politicians can always blame.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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donk said:
Dan, on the TDR I was joking. My response to the applicant would have not been as polite as Chet's.
[ot]Hey, you're Canadian ... you know.

:p[/ot]
 

Chet

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About the TDR comment, joke as it may be

We do have some 'mitigation' provisions in our ordinance. You cut down a tree larger than 6" DBH you mitigate 1:1. The ordinance is silent on location of mitigation, so it could in theory be off site, but you are NOT allowed to provide cash compensation for it.

The land he wants to develop has limited development potential (8 acres, 2 lots at best) under state admin. code, but none under local laws (required to be outloted and set aside for open space and potential future purchase for conservation. The code provides specific compensations for this requirement)

He already has an approved concept plan for a planned development district density transfers from the upland woods he owns. (Basically 60,000 sq ft lots are permitted to be 20,000 lots in exchange for the preservation!) End of the day, he just wants to build his dream home IN the woods.

The compensation he was willing to make was for land we have targeted in the same plan and code for conservation acquisition, but which has NO, repeat NO development potential under state and federal wetland law anyway. The assessor classified it as "swamp and waste". Our code would permit him to buy that land himself, dedicate it as part of his development, and count it towards his open space provided for the development on a mitigation basis. Under that scenario, he loses certain (3x the value) tax benefits.

Basically, he wanted a density bump for his 'generosity' and loss of Fed tax benefits. In essence, ignoring our community build out analysis and getting a personal financial incentive in exchange for a long term purchase that doesnt hurt us if it never happens, or of takes a long time to get in an arms length deal.

Our Mayor just vetoed a rezoning that granted a density bump that messed up our build out analysis why would we buy this?
Offensive at best.
 

Habanero

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3,241
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27
jordanb said:
That sounds terrible! Does it allow for amendment of the plan at all? I don't really see how the drafters of a plan can really predict what the needs of the city will be years down the road. I've always thought master plans were optional guidelines for city development, like Burnham's plan for Chicago. A lot of it was implemented, but some wasn't, and the city wasn't legally obligated to follow it.
Before I drop my 10-foot pole and walk away... It's called Long Range Planning . You can ammend the General Plan and that goes along with the re-zone and architectural development of the site. The GP is not an option, it was voted on, and it can be ammended with another vote by Commission and Council.

Mike, come to AZ- we need more hockey fans out here! PM me if you want info. :)
 

pete-rock

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24
jordanb said:
That sounds terrible! Does it allow for amendment of the plan at all? I don't really see how the drafters of a plan can really predict what the needs of the city will be years down the road. I've always thought master plans were optional guidelines for city development, like Burnham's plan for Chicago. A lot of it was implemented, but some wasn't, and the city wasn't legally obligated to follow it.
This is one where I'll partially stand up for jordanb. If his exposure to planning has been limited to the Chicago area, he could concievably pick up that idea.

There's big-city planning, and there's everywhere else.
 
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