A call to the public: Participate in Land Development Regulations amendment process

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Thursday November 01, 2012

How well do you know the current land development regulations relevant to where you live? During the October 23 Planning Commission meeting, a few members of the public addressed this issue and expressed concern about changes and timing. If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to step in.

Addressing the Commission, resident Lani Ravin said, “I know you’re under pressure from City Council...so I understand the desire to move quickly, but I think these things are potentially large changes and may have the effect that’s opposite to what you want.” Ravin was referring to the list of Land Development Regulations that Commissioners have been working to amend for Council review for purposes of Interim Zoning.

While these amendments are important, the need-for-speed may leave an even more important component of the process behind: the public.

“These are really big changes,” Ravin said. “In terms of the schedule, I think it’s really premature to warn any of these really quickly.”

Even as an active participant throughout the nearly three-hour meeting, this was Ravin’s first stab at the amendment list. Commissioners have discussed the list at least three times prior, Council Chair Rosanne Greco said.

Additionally, some of the amendments such as buildable area calculations are not new, Vice Chair Bill Stuono explained. Many of them have been on the Commission’s “to-do” list for years, set down, and are now making reappearances.

Even so, these amendments may be new to the public eye.

“The amendments that are being proposed...may not be very well known in the community right now,” Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner said. “Because of the publicness of the Interim Zoning committees...it’s a little under the radar right now that these things are being proposed.”

The amendments are at different stages in terms of evaluation of impact, Conner added. Commissioners will not be working alone on these amendments, as the city has newly negotiated contracts with consultants working with each of the four Interim Zoning committees who will work specifically to evaluate impact and create working amendments.

“You have all of these Interim Zoning committees...I question what you’re doing now, isn’t that kind of putting the cart before the horse and doing this before you’re getting the actual input to make the real changes?” Ravin asked.

“We think there are a few things that maybe should just be changed,” Commission Chair Jessica Louisos explained.

“The consultants are working for the task forces, and we’re representing the task forces, too,” Commissioner Sophie Quest said. Communication between commissioners and consultants will not be lost. 

Conner noted that it’s important to have Commissioners play “a significant critical role in this process and other changes to make sure you’re not crossing paths in the night.”

The Planning Commission will continue the Land Development Regulations discussion at its next meeting scheduled for November 13th, 7 p.m. at City Hall. Afterwards, the Commission may choose to warn a public hearing.

“Historically, the public input has been done prior to the formal public hearings, so I think once it’s at the public hearing process, it’s normally been one [public hearing] at the planning commission level and 1-3 at the City Council level,” Conner said.

“The public warning is at the end of the process, not the beginning,” Ravin said, recalling how involved citizens were during the Southeast Quadrant discussion in 2005.

That example was a bit extreme, and these amendments may be on a smaller scale, South Burlington Land Trust President Sarah Dopp said. 

“You’ve got a mix of complexities and simplicities so maybe you’ll decide a different course for different ones,” she said.

To get your “last lick,” as Ravin put it, attend a Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission meets typically the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in the City Hall Conference Room at 7 p.m. Meeting packets with drafted language for the regulations can be found on the city’s website, www.sburl.com.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent