Mike Kueber's Blog

March 23, 2013

Resolving zoning/planning disputes

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:44 pm
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During a couple of the early Council debates/forums, the candidates were asked about how they would deal with zoning disputes.  Because I have no practical experience with zoning, I had to respond in the abstract about taking a position that considers the stakeholders – mostly the property owner and the neighbors – but that ultimately conforms to the wishes of the District as a whole.  In my opinion, the principal wish of the District is to maintain peace & quiet in the neighborhoods.  I also responded that lobbyists and developers would have no sway with me because I wasn’t accepting contributions from them.   

Earlier this week, I went from the abstract to the practical by attending a City Council meeting that resolved several planning/zoning disputes.  Resolving those disputes was not as easy as I thought it would be.  Two instructive examples:

  • A business owner with a tire-repair shop wanted his zoning liberalized to allow for paint & body work.  In his favor, his business was located in a building that had been vacant to ten years, and he currently had twelve employees.  The local HOA agreed with the zoning change, as did the parish priest, and the city planning commission.  Opposing the change were City Staff and several vocal neighbors.  In conclusion, Councilman David Medina summarized the testimony, thanked those testifying, and came down against the zoning change, and all of the Council agreed.
  • Incarnate Word, represented by an attorney, wanted to liberalize its zoning for several lots from single-family to multi-family so that it could build two five-unit apartments.  In its favor, IW had the approval of the planning commission and city staff based on the attractiveness of the new buildings, but two neighbors opposed.  In conclusion, Councilwoman Chan summarized the testimony, thanked those testifying, and came down in favor of the zoning change, and all of the Council agreed.

Lessons learned – (1) in both situations, the city sent out notices to affected neighbors, and the response rate was noted in testimony; (2) the councilperson was the ultimate arbiter because the others routinely followed along; and (3) maintaining the peace & quiet of a neighborhood is sometimes not black & white.

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