Volume 105, Number 23 - June 5, 2008
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Planning and Zoning members question Ninnie
Despite the short agenda of straightforward permit requests at Tuesday’s Pinedale Planning and Zoning meeting, heated debate ensued over a detail that the Planning and Zoning Commission felt rendered its judgment futile.
In order to simplify the process of reviewing planning and zoning applications, Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie reported that from now on he’ll be submitting his comments on applications to both applicants and the commission members the night of each Planning and Zoning meeting.
“I’m trying to eliminate the phone calls we get,” Ninnie said. When he gives applicants his comments days in advance, he said, the applicants flood him with phone calls in hopes of making all necessary revisions immediately. Then on the night of the meeting they submit revised copies of maps and designs, even though the meeting’s agenda is slated to review the older versions.
“It turns out we have a set of revised documents submitted tonight, just when I was done reviewing another one that was older,” Ninnie said. “I have no control of the project. I much prefer giving the comments the night of the meeting, it is what it is, that’s the way it goes.”
If his comments include any problems, applicants can review his concerns and correct them before the next commission meeting, he said.
“It’s more to my advantage,” Ninnie said. “I hand out the comments, they respond to the comments.”
But the commission members argued that if they don’t receive his comments prior to the meeting, they have no way to review his questions and thoroughly judge an applicant’s request to deem it worthy of being passed onto the Town Council for approval.
“(Tonight’s applications) are relatively simple things, but what about something complex, like say, oh, hypothetically, a mobile home park?” asked Commission Chairman Paul Rock, referring to the anticipated mobile home park in the BloomField subdivision that has stirred controversy among Pinedale residents. “Will you do the same thing?”
Ninnie said he would.
“I will give them the same comments that I give you, we’ll go over them, and it is what it is,” he said. “I give a thorough review, no project is any different.”
The commission members pointed out that they were walking into the meetings blind, now that Meghan Jacquet, town planning and zoning administrator, has also stopped providing her comments altogether.
“So when we receive absolutely no information along with plans and a copy of the building permit, we’re to assume there’s no concerns from adjacent landowners or anything?” commission member John Fogerty asked.
Jacquet said landowners’ comments are always included, but her own comments aren’t required. She previously submitted comments “as a favor,” but they were always “blown off” or “attacked,” which she didn’t care to deal with anymore.
“I didn’t mind doing it, because I believe it did help you guys be more organized, but it wasn’t appreciated until it was pulled,” she said, adding that her comments were only reviewed if applications complied with municipal ordinances, which commission members should be able to do on their own.
Fogerty acquiesced, but argued that the commission passes along building applications to the Town Council for approval based on Ninnie’s recommendations. They might pass on inadequate applications if they don’t have necessary information from him beforehand, Fogerty said.
Ninnie assured that if any applicant doesn’t correct engineering problems that he identifies, he will advise the Town Council not to approve the application.
“So we make these motions to make approval without knowing whether any of the requirements are being met,” Fogerty said. “So in essence, what’s the point of having a Planning and Zoning Board?”
“That’s a good point,” Ninnie replied. But he pointed out that if commission members are concerned with passing large projects, they can still confer with members of the public who attend the meetings and make their own judgments.
“You can have your comments added on to mine, and you can recommend it going forward to the Town Council, provided they have addressed the comments that you have, the public has, and that Meghan and I have,” Ninnie said.
Fogerty finally acknowledged that it wasn’t fair to deny approval to the applicants present on Tuesday night because of the debate, and the other commission members present agreed, though Rock was reluctant.
“I have a problem with you springing these (comments) on us and springing things on the people of Pinedale,” Rock told Ninnie.
Still, the commission voted to advise the Town Council to approve two residential multi-family building permits on lots 12 and 13 of the Redstone Ninth Addition at Ninnie’s recommendation.
The council also voted to recommend the Town Council approve a commercial building permit at the corner of Franklin Street and Magnolia Avenue.
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