New code may have come to road block

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— A document that took the city five years to complete is now moving along a little too quickly for some people.

Planning Commissioners and City Council members alike have expressed concerns in the past week that the new Community Development Code contains a number of issues that either surprised them or need to be further worked out before anyone votes on the final draft.

Although the city had hoped to have the code adopted by the beginning of March, it might now have to be pushed back.

City Council President Kevin Bennett said he thinks the code may even be in violation of the city's charter, because the city staff and Planning Commission recommendations to City Council go beyond the level of advising.

Council would vote on the recommendations in its consent calendar but could not call the items up unless there were a majority of council members who agreed to pull it up. That puts staff members and Planning Commission in a position to more than just advise, which is their stated role in the city's charter, Bennett said.

"We'd be handing over the approval process," Bennett said. "In final form, many of the applications would be confined to Planning Commission and staff."

Bennett said if the code stays as it is right now, the city's charter may need to be amended, a process that would take a vote of the people. Bennett also dislikes the idea that four council members may have to agree to call a project up for review.

"It's interesting to note that one citizen can call a project up, but it takes four council members to call it up. That's inconsistent and not acceptable," Bennett said.

Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell also said she thinks the public needs to weigh in on this issue.

"I think the issue of the process needs to be thoroughly discussed and digested before we make any final decisions or opinions on the number of City Council members needed to call up any item," she said. "It's like trying out a new recipe. You have to chew it before you spit it out."

Planning Commission members also harbor grave concerns about the fourth draft of the CD Code. Commissioner Kathi Meyer said the code she has been reviewing bares little resemblance to what she had expected to see.

"Draft four does not really reflect all of the decisions made in almost 40 meetings in a year," she said. "We have to be careful with this code, because it can only be amended by ordinance."

Before the planning department presents its final draft of the code to the city, it will have to work out such complex issues as the makeup of the architectural review board, the guidelines for allowing developers phasing and vesting rights and the final flow chart for the process of development review. It must also decide whether architectural review board meetings will be held in a public hearing format. While the public will be invited, they may not be able to address the board, Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said.

There is also a lot of other work to be done. For one thing, the city has not yet finished drawing up the zoning maps or creating the boundaries of the overlay zones, which would denote which areas would be affected by different development rules. That process will likely be completed within two or three weeks, Schulenberg said. The map will be available for public review and the department will take public comment into account when finalizing the plans, she said.

And even as the city brings the process down to the wire, one of the consultants who helped the city write draft four of the code may be leaving. Don Elliott, the vice president of Clarion and Associates, is headed for Africa, though he said he will appoint another consultant to take his place. Schulenberg said because the code is almost complete, the department will likely make most of the remaining decisions and not necessarily need as many consultants.

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