Saturday, January 23, 2010

Notes on Land Use Boards

The city’s two main land use boards reorganized this week, selecting officers, secretaries and attorneys for 2010.

The Board of Adjustment met Wednesday. Scott Belin was re-elected chairman and Alex Ruiz will serve as vice-chairman. The board attorney again will be Richard Olive and Rosalind Miller of the Planning Division will serve as secretary.

The Planning Board met Thursday and re-elected Ken Robertson as chairman and Ron Scott-Bey as vice-chairman. Michele Donato was appointed board attorney and Miller was named secretary.

The Board of Adjustment meets at 7 p.m. in City Hall Library on the first Wednesday of each month. Its hearings are quasi-judicial, with experts testifying on applications for relief from zoning requirements. For example, on Wednesday, applicant Steven Eleftheriou had an attorney, a planning expert, an architect and an engineer to frame his case for building a new three-story building in an R-5 zone. Hearings can be quite lengthy and may be carried over to the next month until they are finished.

The Planning Board meets at 8 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month, also in City Hall Library. Part of its work is to prepare a six-year capital improvement plan to recommend to the City Council. It also reviews all plans for development, including traffic and parking conditions. Applicants for large projects also bring in experts to testify.

I’m sure Planning Director Bill Nierstedt can tell you more about how these boards work – this is just a cursory overview.

The Historic Preservation Commission has review powers on exterior changes and new construction in historic districts and makes recommendations to the land use boards. The commission meets at 7:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month. It will reorganize next Tuesday.

For all three boards, city staff reviews all applications thoroughly for completeness and for adherence to the state’s Municipal Land Use Law and various codes.

Every year some vacancies come up on these boards. Anyone may attend and observe meetings. If you want to be considered to serve, you can fill out an application that is available on the city web site. Terms normally begin on Jan. 1, but vacancies can come up during the year as well. Under the Civic Responsibility Act of 2005, all boards and commissions were to be described and terms made known. So far, that has not happened, but the section of the Municipal Code on boards and commissions is online and you can look up the membership requirements.

Residents who serve on these boards make an important contribution to the community and are to be commended for their service. Some, such as Planning Board member Gordon Fuller, have given decades of service and have valuable insight into the land use processes.



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