La Plata Plan­ning Com­mis­sion up­dates zon­ing code

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

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.

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