ES planning commission pondering review process

Sunday, April 1, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Glenna Booth, city economic development coordinator, spoke at the March 27 Planning Commission about how the Historic District Commission structures its review process. Planning had asked Booth for input because Chairwoman Beverly Blankenship had pointed out that city code does not require a review by planning for any construction as is the common practice in many cities, and they intend to set up such a process.

Blankenship said they must decide what will they review and what the review process will entail. Booth explained the process as HDC guidelines define three levels under which applications are placed, depending on the kind of impact the project will have on the building or property.

Booth advised planning to consider the scope of what they want to review, whether it will be only commercial projects or residential and commercial. She said they must consider whether to review new constructions, footprint changes, vertical additions, expansions of a certain relative size, parking lots or demolitions.

She pointed out that their review will be to make sure the project complies with the code for that zone.

Commissioner James Morris interjected that they must clarify their purpose for doing these reviews. He wants the process to be consistent and simple, but comprehensive. He said it is not their intent to present another hoop to jump through. He wants planning to help the city and Building Inspector Bobby Ray, even though they said he does a good job.

Blankenship reiterated they need to study the process for building permits to see where they would fit in.

Booth said she thought it was a good idea for planning to get involved. She said planning would be providing a good checklist for code compliance and another set of eyes, and she outlined suggestions for the application form and steps in the process planning could adopt.

Morris mentioned construction projects that go up with a building permit but no review process, which involves looking at the impact on the surrounding area. He said he knew of a commercial project in town that seriously impacted nearby neighborhoods, and feels residential property values were affected. The process he envisions for planning would allow for public input regarding commercial applications. He said he wants to circumvent future problems, as it is hard to go back and fix things "that get snuck in."

Commissioner Denys Flaherty suggested they have a workshop with Ray, but commissioners decided Blankenship should invite Ray to their next meeting to get his input.

In other business, Booth reported that the zoning map process has slowed down and she is re-examining the source map as well as comparing the zoning map and the plat map to make sure they agree. She said the project is moving along, and the end result will be a wonderful tool.

Blankenship said there are three properties on the list of legally non-conforming bed and breakfasts in the R-1 zone which should not be on the list because zoning changes moved them out of the R-1 zone. She asked Booth to send letters informing them of the change in status so they could appear at a meeting to represent themselves if they wanted to. Blankenship said others on the list have not been in business for awhile so their CUPs are no longer active.

Next meeting will be Tuesday, April 10, at 6 p.m.

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