Public input plays an important role in Planning Commission decisions, but sometimes handling how the public gives input can be troublesome.
Sometimes a public hearing begins with just a few people requesting to speak, and that number then increases as the hearing proceeds. In order to deal with this issue, the Commission decided on October 16 that all requests to speak must be submitted after the City staff report has been given, which is prior to the Commission’s discussion of an item during a public hearing. Any requests after that will be considered late and have to get Commission approval to be heard.
Current Commission rules require speakers to ask to be heard prior to the discussion of an item. This Commission decision makes their rules more comparable to the rules the City Council follows at their public hearings.
In other business, the Commission discussed, and made recommendations and changes to, the City’s Interim Substantial Remodel Ordinance, which is set to expire in January 2009. According to the City documents, this ordinance defines a “substantial remodel” with a definition of “the threshold at which a structure has been sufficiently altered to require that the entire structure” must meet current City building code requirements. The Ordinance also allows certain exceptions.
Commission members decided to recommend that the interim ordinance be made permanent, and that there are two acceptable instances wherein the City’s Zoning Administrator could allow an adjustment to the substantial remodel requirements.
According to the City staff report, the first instance is where “additional structural damage is discovered during construction such that more than 50 percent of the walls must be removed, rendering the project a substantial remodel.” Such a situation would be considered a financial hardship on the owner.
Originally, the additional damage included only the results of dry rot or termites, but the Commission broadened it to include “other damage.” If a homeowner has such an issue, he will have to request an adjustment from the Zoning Administrator.
The second mitigating circumstance is when part of a residential or commercial structure is damaged during construction. After getting approval from the Zoning Administrator, the owner would be allowed to remove a damaged wall, but would have to replace it with a similar wall in the same location as the original wall.
City Planner Elizabeth Bar-El told the Mirror these changes would broaden “the opportunity to do a substantial remodel [in the City] and still maintain non-conforming characteristics of the existing building.”
The Commission’s recommendations will now be forwarded on to the City Council for their review, which is scheduled for November 11.