MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE MIDLAND CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

WHICH TOOK PLACE ON TUESDAY,

MARCH 26, 2013, 6:00 P.M.,

COUNCIL OVERFLOW CONFERENCE ROOM CITY HALL,

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

1.†† Roll Call

PRESENT:†† Heying, McLaughlin, Mead, Pnacek, Senesac, and Stewart

ABSENT: †††† Hanna, Tanzini and Young

OTHERS PRESENT:†† Brad Kaye, Director of Planning and Community Development, Jeff Burdick, Community Development Planner, Cindy Winland, Contract Planner, and one other.

 

2. ††New Business

Procedural Change Discussion:

 

Brad Kaye presented a flowchart depicting how the proposed procedural changes for reviewing and acting upon zoning ordinance text amendments, zoning map amendments, conditional use permits and site plan reviews would streamline these processes. He reminded the Commission that this is a continuation of past discussions regarding methods to achieve a more efficient approach to staff and Commission reviews.During previous discussions, Commission members expressed concern with how the City Council would react to these proposed changes.Kaye stated that he spoke with the City Manager about this and was informed that the Council would probably be receptive to procedural changes that would streamline the review process.Kaye suggested presenting proposed procedural changes to the City Council early in the process to make sure council members are in agreement with the direction of the changes before significant work is been done by the Planning Commission and staff.

 

Kaye explained that the alternative review process being proposed by staff would remove some steps, such as the need for certain items to appear before two Planning Commission meetings, and the requirement that site plans be approved by City Council.This would have the potential to reduce approval times with the intent of saving time and money for the City, developers and citizens.†† He noted that the City Council could still require a public hearing if it feels a case warrants further public involvement and scrutiny.

 

Kaye stated that, to accompany these proposed procedural changes, enhancements could be made to the public hearing notice and the cityís website could be updated to include more information about the timeline/schedule required for proposals.†† Ray Senesac stated that public hearing notices should make reference to the cityís website and should note that, if someone has questions, they should call the Planning Department prior to the public hearing. Cindy Winland noted that she hears complaints from developers regarding how protracted the process is and that an enhanced website with details about the review process would help developers as well as the public.

 

Kaye stated that the Planning Department has heard feedback from the public that they donít like the need to attend multiple public meetings if they have interest in a particular case and that they are confused about when they can and cannot participate in the process.Roger Mead stated that he talked with some area developers and was told that they think the development review process is long, but feel that this is related to Building and Engineering Department reviews rather than the current Planning Commission process.Winland replied that area developers are experienced with the process but she finds that out of town developers are unaccustomed to the required number of meetings necessary for proposals and find having two public hearings (one before the Planning Commission and one before City Council) to be unusual and unnecessary.††

 

Kaye stated that even after receiving Planning Commission and City Council approval, there is often still a lot of work to be done for a developer. He cited the East End project as an example, where the developer needed an expedient approval process by the City in order to apply for tax credits and brownfield credits. Winland added that the existing review process precludes Planning staff from doing more proactive planning and working on long term planning projects.

 

Senesac offered his own take on the difference between the current process and the proposed process outlined by staff.He feels that the current process asks the applicant to make the argument for why the Planning Commission should act on a case during the meeting while the proposed process requires the Commission to make the argument for why a second meeting is needed to decide a case.He states that if the City errs with the current process, then the worst case scenario is that a second meeting is held.If the City errs with the proposed process, then the worst case scenario is that the Commission could make a bad decision.Kaye replied that he feels requiring a second meeting when one isnít necessary is not development friendly and does not send a positive message to developers and the public. He also noted that most cases are simple enough that the Planning Commission can have a public hearing and act on the case in the same evening.Because it is in the procedural by-laws of the Planning Commission that a public hearing must be held and then the case shall be decided at the next Commission meeting, these simple cases that make up a majority require waivers of the procedural by-laws.

 

Lowell McLaughlin stated that if the proposed procedural changes are adopted, he feels that Staff should provide the Planning Commission with an enhanced analysis in the staff report with a measurable matrix to assist the Commission in making a decision.Kaye agreed and added that the goal is to design a process that recognizes good applications by allowing for an expeditious process, while providing a path for a second meeting or public hearing for the more difficult cases.

 

Dave Heying stated that he likes to carefully review a case prior to the hearing by visiting the site and studying the staff report. He added that he is in favor of a more streamlined process.††

 

Mead suggested continuing the current process as is, but moving towards an eventual process change by enhancing public hearing notices and enhancing the website to better outline the process. Kaye stated that the Planning Commission always has four choices when hearing a case: approval, approval with conditions, denial, or table the case.

 

Heying added that the Planning Commission often closes a public hearing without making any comments or having any discussion.This leaves both the applicant and the public in the dark regarding the Planning Commissionís thoughts regarding the proposal.Continuing with a discussion and possibly a vote at the same meeting seems to make sense.

 

Kaye reiterated that for site plan review, it is very unusual for the City Council to have any approval authority.Site plan review is technical and site plans have to be approved if all technical ordinance standards are met.He stated that staff would float these proposed procedural changes by City Council and gather their thoughts.In the meantime, the website could be revamped and enhanced to provide a better explanation of the development review process.††

 

3.†† Adjourn†† ††† †††††††

 

Adjourned at 7:38 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

C. Bradley Kaye, AICP

Director of Planning and Community Development

 

MINUTES ARE NOT FINAL UNTIL APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION