La Plata Planning Commission updates zoning code
On May 3, the La Plata Planning Commission met to discuss more improvements in drafting the town’s zoning code, with the belief that the zoning code updates will make it easier for residents and future planning staff to understand the town’s zoning requirements.
The commission gave additional suggestions to the staff about how to move forward before editing Article II: Plan Review and Submittal Requirements, previously known as “Site Plans,” and Article III: Non-Conforming Uses, Structures, Lots and Developments, for the final draft.
Planing Commission Chairwoman Debra W. Posey suggested more provisions in specified parts of the article that can be misunderstood or misinterpreted by anyone reading the zoning code requirements for their first time, before approaching the planning commission.
Posey said there are sentences that you have to read twice in order to understand.
Town Manager Daniel Mears agreed and added that the commission’s comprehensive review of the town’s zoning code will reorganize the code to make it easier for everyone to use, add items that the commission feels need to be added, reduce provisions that can be viewed as conflicting, and confirm that the processes followed in planning are logical and clearly understood.
“The most significant change to the zoning code being drafted is the combination of the mixed use zones and the traditional neighborhood district into a combined zone. It is a blending of two concepts that have traditionally been overlapped in La Plata into a straightforward zoning category,” Mears said.
The planning commission suggested that Article II specify that the site plans are not required to be engineered drawings and include a simplified version for residential, add language for annexations and that the applicant is encouraged to have these reviewed by the commission, add language referencing the commission review, remove reference to “Stormwater Utility Management Utility Manager” and remove all references to specific titles and positions throughout the draft.
As requested by the commission, the planning staff updated Article III in its entirety, to provide clarification on the applicability, intent, and clear direction on how to proceed with non-conforming uses, structures, lots and developments. One major change is that all of the references to “districts” have been replaced with “zones,” “buildings” have been replaced with “structures” and the formatting of the text has also been corrected.
“It definitely reads well and I think its easier to follow than it was previously, especially having it all flow,” La Plata Town Councilman C. Keith Back said. “One of our initial goals when we started this process three years ago was to make it easier for people to pick up. This has come a long way.”
“This will add a layer of process to projects but provide more oversight from the planning commission on larger scale projects. Some of our larger commercial projects did not come to planning commission except for recommendation for other things and not the site plan aspect and we feel that is important especially if you’re talking about larger commercial property,” Director of Planning Jeremy Hurlbutt said.
The planning commission also held further discussion about previously approved developments that will be considered non-conforming after the effective date of the adoption of the zoning code updates. Developments such as Hickory Ridge, Heritage Green, Steeplechase and Stagecoach will be affected by this change in zoning. The commission recommended that each of the subdivisions have resolutions prepared and implemented on the effective date of the ordinance and provide standards that they must adhere to for all future development.
“Overall this should help future planning staff understand the process for businesses or developments coming into the town,” Hurlbutt said.
Mears said the commission has agreed to add additional meetings in May and June in order to complete their review of the zoning code by this summer.
“A change to the zoning code will require a public hearing before the planning commission and a public hearing before the town council before the town council considers it for adoption. It is expected that process will continue through this year,” Mears said.