Com­mis­sion de­nies waiver again

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT

The plan­ning com­mis­sion voted unan­i­mously against a re­quest to waive ease­ment re­quire­ments on a Com­mon­wealth Road prop­erty in the city’s plan­ning area for a sec­ond time dur­ing its reg­u­lar meet­ing on Mon­day, Dec. 4.

The com­mis­sion pre­vi­ously voted against this waiver dur­ing its Oct. 9 reg­u­lar meet­ing. The ap­pli­cant, Richard Utecht, was out of the area dur­ing the pre­vi­ous look at his lot and brought the is­sue back dur­ing the work session to plead his case di­rectly.

If the waiver was granted, he said, he in­tended to split his lot for es­tate plan­ning pur­poses and build an or­chard that would re­main in his fam­ily. The re­quired ease­ments, he said, are not com­pat­i­ble with how he wants to de­velop his land.

“I think it’s highly un­likely that a mu­nic­i­pal­ity is go­ing to need ease­ments on that prop­erty any­time in the fore­see­able fu­ture,” Utecht said. “At some point in

the fu­ture, gen­er­a­tions from now … we’ll sit down like rea­son­able peo­ple and dis­cuss the need for ease­ments at that time.”

Utecht said he was frus­trated with the di­rec­tion of the dis­cus­sion. He was con­cerned, he said, that the com­mis­sion­ers could be fo­cus­ing ex­ces­sively on fu­ture pos­si­bil­i­ties and not on the mer­its of his case and how it fits with code.

“Ei­ther I’ve made valid ar­gu­ments to the four points of the cri­te­ria that ad­dress the code or I haven’t,” he said.

Sarah Bing­ham, as­so­ci­ate plan­ner with the com­mu­nity devel­op­ment ser­vices depart­ment, said that in the staff’s anal­y­sis of the four cri­te­ria for grant­ing an ex­emp­tion, only one — whether the ex­emp­tion would be in­ju­ri­ous to other prop­er­ties or detri­men­tal to pub­lic health and safety — is an­swered in the af­fir­ma­tive.

The spe­cial con­di­tions that make these ease­ments prob­lem­atic, she said, are not caused by the land but by the pro­posed devel­op­ment on it.

City staff rec­om­mended de­nial of the re­quest, she said, based on that cri­te­ria.

Com­mis­sioner Don Robin­son said that he was con­cerned grant­ing these ease­ments could cre­ate prob­lems down the road.

“I still feel it sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent to al­low this thing. It seems to me we’re just do­ing this to ap­pease a landowner,” he said. “The way the area’s grow­ing, you never know what might hap­pen out there.”

He’s seen cases in Colorado and Florida, he said, where elec­tric lines had to run across streets and take a longer way around be­cause there were no ease­ments in place, which re­sulted in higher costs.

Vice-chair Doug Farner said he agreed.

Dur­ing the work session, he said, it was stated that these ease­ments are very un­likely to be used.

“My ques­tion is if the ease­ments are never go­ing to be used, what dif­fer­ence does it make?” he asked.

“Once those ease­ments go away, it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to get them back. And we can’t see, sit­ting here as a group, what might hap­pen 10, 15 years from now.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, he said, the ease­ments are around the edges of the prop­erty, not run­ning across it, and they do not pre­vent the prop­erty owner from most uses of that space — though a per­ma­nent struc­ture can­not be erected in the ease­ment.

Com­mis­sioner Shawki Al-Mad­houn said that he didn’t be­lieve this waiver was ideal be­cause those ease­ments are a pub­lic good.

“Util­i­ties came to this par­cel, this prop­erty, through some­one else’s ease­ments,” he said. “So I have a hard time sup­port­ing this.”

Re­mov­ing them, he said, is not in keep­ing with the city govern­ment’s obli­ga­tion to serve the pub­lic.

The board’s chair, Daniel El­lis, said he does not be­lieve the com­mis­sion has ever granted a waiver like this.

Chris Sune­son, direc­tor of the Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Ser­vices Depart­ment, said he could not re­call a sit­u­a­tion where the com­mis­sion did so.

The com­mis­sion voted unan­i­mously to deny the waiver.

The com­mis­sion also looked at and voted unan­i­mously in fa­vor of a lot split for a Cooper Com­mu­ni­ties prop­erty off For­est Hills Blvd., and agreed to move the next work session from Dec. 28 to Dec 21.

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