Two more proposed amendments to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance
received consent from the Plan Commission Monday night.
County planners unanimously called to recoup standards for Planned Unit
Developments in the UDO which were essentially done away with when the
existing UDO was enacted in 2008. Since then, the county has not approved a
PUD and developers have had to go through extensive and costly processes to
Planning consultant Paul LeBlanc of LSL Planning said petitions have had to
come before five review bodies and often find it difficult to judge exactly
how long the process will take.
“The petitioners somewhat want the outcome to be predictable. Right now,
that is not the case,” he said.
PUDs are developments with multiple zonings for mixed uses and works with
very specific criteria.
Under the new regulations, developers will come to the county with a
conceptual plan which would detailed general indications of which areas will
be rezoned and what will be built on the parcel. The developer can then
continue with a detail option plan or submit a final engineering plan if
they are confident enough but run the risk of having to go back to the
Public hearings will still be included even at the start since the plan
commission board is the entity which recommends rezoning to the county
commissioners who are required by law to allow the opportunity for public
The goal is to also change the time frame to accommodate developers in a
The commission voted unanimously 6-0 to approve the amendment, even from its
arguably harshest critic, local preservationist Herb Read.
Read said he had no objections to PUDs in principle, but raised many
questions before signing off on his approval.
“The devil is in the details; so, I want to look at some of the details,”
Read expressed his desire to protect areas zoned for park districts and
greenways and inquired if they could be excluded in the amendment. Plan
Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said all zones are subject to
rezoning as it is a constitutional right for the owner of a property to
attempt a rezone according to the due process of law. However, the plan
commission has the power to deny any request as they see fit.
Other concerns Read raised included reducing the amount of required open
space from 40 to 30 percent and, along with fellow planner Sylvia Graham,
commented on a section that leaves it optional for the developers to hold
meetings with neighboring residents.
The ordinance encourages developers to meet with neighbors in working out
positive outcomes for the project, but LeBlanc said there are probably
occasions were a meeting would not serve a purpose if the development is in
an area free of neighboring residents.
Planner and county surveyor Kevin Breitzke proposed that the amendment’s
required minimum of 20-acres be stretched to 40-acres. He also suggested the
regulations require the water utilities come from a municipal water supply
or a conservancy district.
While the commission agreed to the public utilities approach, they ended up
nixing the request to increase the minimum to 40-acres as it was mentioned
that certain PUDs would not need 40-acres such as assisted living and senior
communities. With many related developments in the works due to the aging
population, these developments would end up coming to the county’s Board of
Zoning Appeals to get a variance.
Real estate attorney Todd Leeth, who is a member of the UDO committee, said
the commission should be flexible to allow developers the freedom to create
novel projects that can also help the county by increasing profitability and
still find creative ways to preserve natural features.
“We know that developers will want to avail themselves to this flexible
tool,” said Leeth.
Plan Commission President and County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center,
said the UDO committee plan to evaluate how well the amendments are working
on an annual basis and make adjustments where needed.
“These reviews will be our highest priority,” said Adams. “That’s the only
way you can tweak them for the better.”
The commission voted the same way, 6-0, for the amendment to revise the
UDO’s requirements for development review.
Under the new code, Thompson will have review responsibilities over
residential projects with 4 or fewer units, commercial or industrial
building additions less than 10,000 square feet, institutional developments
less than five acres and small subdivisions with four or less lots.
A development review committee made up of various appointees and county
officials will have authority over residential projects of 5 to 100 units,
new buildings up to 25,000 square feet and institutional projects from 5 to
The plan commission, which under the existent UDO handles all the reviews,
will continue to have authority over residential projects more than 100
units, commercial and industrial buildings and additions more than 25,000
square feet, institutional projects more than 10 acres and major
subdivisions -- ones that have more than four lots.
Development plans will have a total of 13 checkpoint review agencies such as
the area schools, the local fire districts, the county drainage board, the
health department and E-911 center among others.
Once plans receive approval, permits for big development projects are good
for up to three years and seven years is expected for a developer to
complete construction. Thompson said a petitioner is welcome to ask the
commission for an extension as long as there is a good reason. Breitzke said
it should be the responsibility of the developer to keep track of the
expiration, not the commission’s.
Before approval, Read raised questions about the qualifications of the
development review committee members. While the existing UDO called for
members to be licensed professionals, no provisions carried over into the
new draft. Read asked that the rules require members to have some technical
“This is very loose and open to bad political influence in my opinion,” he
told his peers.
Adams said the committee is made up of one of the commissioners, a member of
the plan commission, the county surveyor, drainage board president Dave
Burrus and a county highway engineer. However, she did acknowledge Read’s
request and will work on getting qualifications worked into the new
Breitzke also made a few additions of his own to the motion including an
inclusion of review of water features and wetlands and that best management
practices be required for ensuring high stormwater quality.
The plan commission will likely meet in December to review two amendments
that were tabled at Wednesday’s meeting. One regards changes to stormwater
standards and the other concerns property maintenance. Amendments are
available for public view in the plan commission office.
Three commission members were not present Monday. Absent from the meeting
were planners Elizabeth Marshall, Lyndsay Ploehn and Tim Cole.