• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!

Zoning 🟧 Interpret this zoning provision

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
2,279
Points
25
Major Site Plan.

A Major Site Plan shall be required when the project:
1. exceeds one acre of land-disturbed area and is commercial or industrial in nature, or is a mobile home park, or contains three (3) or more dwelling units on one lot, or is an Intentional Community; or
2. entails the erection of a structure or structures exceeding a total of 5000 square feet, excluding agricultural and single family residential construction, on a single parcel.

Minor Site Plan.

A Minor Site Plan must accompany zoning permit applications in those undertakings which do not fall within the categories specified for Major Site Plans. A Minor Site Plan must also accompany the initial application for a Special Use Permit and for a rezoning request. For the purposes of this Article, the phrase “special use” shall mean either Conditional Use or Special Use, as the case may be.


Question - Is the "exceeding one acre of land-disturbed area" a requirement that applies to all the criteria listed under the first bullet of the major site plan? Or is it part of just the first item that will trigger a major site plan and the other items like the mobile home park or multiple dwelling units on a single lot will require a major site plan regardless of the acreage that is disturbed.

A few things to note about the zoning ordinance:
  • two-family detached dwellings are allowed by-right in the R-1 and A-1 districts. So if it is interpreted as anything that is three or more dwelling units on a single lot without the one acre land disturbance, you're asking people to go straight from no site plan basically (they're not required for single-family/two-family houses) to a major site plan.
  • Here's the definition of a mobile home park: One (1) or more contiguous parcels of land in which two (2) or more rental lots are provided for mobile homes or upon which two (2) or more mobile homes are located. This shall include mobile homes that are stored on property, but shall not include mobile homes for sale by a bona fide licensed dealer.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
19,552
Points
71
Question - Is the "exceeding one acre of land-disturbed area" a requirement that applies to all the criteria listed under the first bullet of the major site plan? Or is it part of just the first item that will trigger a major site plan and the other items like the mobile home park or multiple dwelling units on a single lot will require a major site plan regardless of the acreage that is disturbed.

I think you're dealing with a case of poor legal writing. (Not that there's much good legal writing to begin with.) In this case, it's time to get pedantic.

commas_matter.png


In the English language, regardless of whether it's plain English or legalese, commas separate independent clauses when they are joined by coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor, yet). Four independent clauses -- different criteria triggering major site plan review -- are grouped together in (1), and another independent clause is on its own in (2).

When I consider the commas and the breakdown of the triggering criteria, I see ....
  • (1) exceeds one acre of land-disturbed area and is commercial or industrial in nature, or
  • (1) is a mobile home park, or
  • (1) contains three (3) or more dwelling units on one lot, or
  • (1) is an Intentional Community; or
  • (2) entails the erection of a structure or structures exceeding a total of 5000 square feet, excluding agricultural and single family residential construction, on a single parcel.
If "exceeding one acre of land-disturbed area" applies to all the criteria under (1), there should be a semicolon after the land area criteria. "... exceeds one acre of land-disturbed area; and is commercial or industrial in nature, or is a mobile home park, or contains three (3) or more dwelling units on one lot, or ..."

Consider the plain meaning doctrine in common law.
  • Read a law word for word, and interpret it using the ordinary literal meaning of its language, unless (1) the law defines a word differently its their ordinary meaning, or (2) the outcome would be cruel or absurd;
  • Ordinary words have their ordinary meaning.
  • Technical terms have their technical meaning, based on context. (e.g. "parcel" in the context of land use regulations doesn't mean a package for delivery.
With the commas placed where they are, the literal meaning of the law is:

... part of just the first item that will trigger a major site plan and the other items like the mobile home park or multiple dwelling units on a single lot will require a major site plan regardless of the acreage that is disturbed.

Also think about this: why would a mobile home park or ≥ 3 DUs on a single lot need site plan review if the lot is ≥ 1 ac, but not if the lot is smaller? It makes more sense for (major) site plan review to apply to projects that are more intensive.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,937
Points
60
I agree with, Dan....mainly because his response was...exhausting. ;)

I read the 'one acre' as part of a commercial development and the remaining categories in the bullet are completely separate and other contexts in which Major Site Plan review is required.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
2,279
Points
25
Also think about this: why would a mobile home park or ≥ 3 DUs on a single lot need site plan review if the lot is ≥ 1 ac, but not if the lot is smaller? It makes more sense for (major) site plan review to apply to projects that are more intensive.


My response to that is because otherwise you are jumping from literally two dwelling units not requiring ANY site plan at all to three requiring a MAJOR site plan (versus a minor site plan), and then one mobile home not requiring ANY site plan to two mobile homes requiring a MAJOR site plan (versus a minor site plan).
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
2,279
Points
25
Oh! And it's not based on the lot size - it's based on the size of the DISTURBED AREA. So it totally makes sense that if an acre is being disturbed for any use, it should fall under the major versus minor site plan review process. It just seems excessive to go from requiring nothing to requiring a major site plan.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,937
Points
60
Oh! And it's not based on the lot size - it's based on the size of the DISTURBED AREA. So it totally makes sense that if an acre is being disturbed for any use, it should fall under the major versus minor site plan review process. It just seems excessive to go from requiring nothing to requiring a major site plan.
That's why I would interpret it as 'acre of disturbed area' for only commercial or industrial developments.
 
Top