Volume 106, Number 2 - January 8, 2009
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Proposed ordinance under fire
The Pinedale Planning and Zoning Commission met Monday evening to a packed audience, most of whom were on hand to discuss proposed Ordinance 442, despite the fact that the agenda had not been published in the local newspaper nor that the printed agendas available in Town Hall did not include any mention of the ordinance.
Despite its limited exposure, the content of the ordinance has been reviewed by many property owners in Pinedale who are worried about the repercussions were such a document made into law.
“The thing I’ve been bumping into, just talking to people on the street, is that maybe this goes above and beyond what the constituents of the town are really interested in,” said commission chairperson, John Fogerty.
“There is language involved in the draft, in this ordinance, that’s disconcerting to a lot of people…language involving neighborhood character, which I tend to agree with.
“But it’s kind of nebulous. And I don’t think a lot of people are interested in having those kinds of general terms.”
Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie, who was instrumental in drafting the ordinance, did his best to clarify the document’s purpose, including the architectural standards that are included.
“You’ve lived in Pinedale almost all your life,” he said to Fogerty. “Do you know what kind of character you’d like? I think you do.
You would make the decision here.
“It’s not being nebulous, but it’s providing the people who sit on this board, who are familiar with the town, the ability to review it based on what you see, not on what I see.”
The larger purpose of the ordinance, according to Ninnie, is to organize the application process for building permits. In other municipalities, the building permit is issued at the end of that process.
“In this town, it’s backwards,” said Ninnie.
The building permit is what applicants seek first in Pinedale, and the process is often muddled with various applicants bringing various site plans and paperwork.
“All we’re doing is asking for more information and trying to define a process in more detail,” said Ninnie. “And it actually provides better organization to that submission, to the (site plan) documents. Currently, those documents aren’t detailed.”
Members of the public, as well as some on the commission, were less than convinced.
“If you really want to know my real opinion, I think that this is the exact example of why we have never had a building permit before, a building inspector before,” said commission member Barbara Boyce. “I think we shouldn’t put this much power in a few people’s hands.”
Resident Steve Mackey approached the commission with a petition signed by about 30 Pinedale property owners, all opposed to the ordinance.
Mackey also criticized the document not only for its interpretive nature, but also for its extensive engineering requirements.
“The proposed ordinance requires drawings from engineers before unimproved realty is developed for any use,” said Mackey. “So if the owner of a vacant lot wants to mow the grass and let neighborhood kids play baseball on it, or he wants to flood it in the winter for an iceskating rink, he needs a site plan and he needs an engineer’s approval on that.”
While Mackey’s examples were used to underscore his argument, the proposed ordinance would require extensive, professionally-engineered site plans for something as simple as converting an empty lot into a gravel parking lot.
“(Engineering requirements) may not be such a bad thing for a huge commercial project,” said commission member Pam Curry.
“There is some value, but I don’t think we need to saddle it to the really tiny lots where somebody wants to put some small thing on.
It’s just overkill for a lot of people.”
Boyce echoed the sentiment.
“If you’re doing this for Bloomfield and all them out there that are bringing in all these things, then make sure you leave us little people in town out somehow,” said Boyce. “It’s not right for us to have to spend $10-15,000 to get an engineer to sign off on this, and an engineer to sign off on that.”
Taking particular issue with the drainage requirements of the ordinance, commission member Janet Bellis made a motion that the commission recommend to the Town Council to table the ordinance until these issues were addressed.
“I would really like to see some comprehensive plan myself, so that we can look at the town as a whole and not just a piece meal thing,” said Bellis. “But I’m not sure it’s ready yet.”
The voted to send such a recommendation ended in a 2-2 vote, since fellow commission member Miriam Carlson was not present. Fogerty and Boyce voted against such a recommendation.
“I think if we make a motion, it should be to just table the whole thing,” said Boyce.
For Fogerty, the fact that discussion of the ordinance was not published was problematic.
“I don’t know about making a motion on an item that was not specifically on the agenda,” said Fogerty. “And I’m just afraid if we come forward with a recommendation saying A, B and C need to be worked on, (the Town Council) won’t fully grasp how the town feels about it at the moment.”
— Big Rig Catering, located at 306 S. Bridger Ave., was given approval for a building permit by the commission to remodel the interior of the building.
After obtaining a letter of support from the owner of the property, Big Rig Catering, which currently holds the lease on the property, wants to convert the interior for food preparation purposes.
The property will ultimately have a takeout option for local residents as well as the catering aspect of the business.
— Thomas Kellen’s request for a building permit was tabled. Represented by WLC engineering firm, the property owner hopes to build a four-unit apartment on S. Coulter Loop
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