The City Council was presented with a plan to modernize the existing business and industrial zoning laws this last Tuesday, July 14. The proposed changes update the current ordinance by creating use groups for the zoning of commercial districts.
The current zoning laws, which have been in force since 1995, limits commercial uses by restricting what a business can do within any specific zone. Anything not specifically listed as an appropriate use in the zoning laws are not allowed within that zone.
Two examples were given at the meeting; both located on a stretch of Lone Pine. One involved an art studio, and the other on the corner of Galloway and Lone Pine involved a used furniture store. Principal City Planner Mike MacPherson said both businesses logically fit within the zoning type, but were disallowed due to those specific types of businesses not being named in the zoning ordinance.
According to a Zoning & Subdivision Report from June 3, 2010 the proposed plan for Use Groups “… will provide the flexibility needed to adapt to changing and evolving land uses while still protecting the interests of the community and adjacent property owners.”
Not everyone was convinced though. Zone 2 Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky, echoing concerns from a local neighborhood association, asked if there was any kind of oversight to the procedure of creating a use group and whether there was any recourse for those who felt the decision is wrong.
Currently, a business owner must apply to an Administrative Review Committee for inclusion of their business in the zoning laws. Mr. MacPherson said the current method of applying to the Administrative Review Committee for inclusion still applies. Under the current process zoning conflicts could take up to “77 days and approximately $1200” to solve according to Mr. MacPherson. With the proposed Use Groups that time and cost could be drastically reduced.
An appeal process is available. Appeals go before the Board of Adjustment, which is composed of five members and up to 3 alternates who are nominated by the City Manager and appointed by the City Council. There is an appeal fee of $863, but if the Board of Adjustment finds in favor of the business, that fee will be refunded.
Mr MacPherson said “[Use Groups] allows the director, rather than interpretation of zoning negatively, to interpret a positive.” In effect, use groups gives Planning and Zoning the ability to say yes more often than no.
The new plan is to be voted on at the July 27 city council meeting.