Planning department to judge minor permits

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— The Planning Commission, after making sure changes to the Municipal Code wouldn't take the planning process out of the public arena, voted unanimously to allow the planning department to handle a large percentage of planning permits at the administrative level.
That means instead of bringing the proposals to the Planning Commission and City Council, many of the more minor permits could be reviewed and judged for final approval by Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg after staff review.
The amendments would affect minor development permit review, including final plats, minor changes in use and minor building alterations. A minor building alteration would involve less than 1,500 square feet of area.
The planning department estimates that about 75 percent of its current work load is due to minor applications. Of the 94 minor development permits processed in 1999, 26 were final plats, 23 were minor site or building modifications, 5 were minor changes in use and 10 were time extensions. Those permits previously had to be taken before the Planning Commission and City Council.
"All this just keeps adding time to the process," Schulenberg said.
Planning Commissioner Joe Foligno was concerned the amendments could take the public out of the planning process.
Schulenberg assured the commission the department would continue to notify adjacent property owners and take their comments into consideration.
The new Community Development Code, scheduled to be completed about January 2001, will likely include these amendments, but the planning department wants to institute the changes before the new code is passed.
"Planning Commission has extensively considered the concept of a staff-level approval process during the review of the various development code drafts," Schulenberg wrote in her proposal.
City Council has pushed Schulenberg to reduce some of the current Planning Commission and City Council review of plats and permits in order to free up time for more pressing matters.


To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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