Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2004

Planning commissioner’s moratorium proposal fails

March 11, 2004

An anti-growth philosophy isn't what fueled Basehor Planning Commission member George Smith to propose a moratorium on multi-family development last week.

On the contrary, Smith said he's as much in favor of growth as anyone. But, with an increasing number of multi-family proposals coming before the city, Smith said he's in favor of placing a temporary restriction on new multi-family development until the city can restructure the tools to govern them.

The motion made by Smith last week failed to receive a second from another planning commission member. However, the second-year planning commissioner said he wanted the debate more than an approved proposal.

"It's not the idea that I oppose development at all," Smith said. "I did this expecting that it wouldn't be passed or approved.

"I am concerned, as a lot of people are, of the quantity of multi-family we've approved and what's going to happen with that," he added. "There must be some kind of limit as to how much multi-family we need. We have all this multi-family lined up, and we don't have the tools to control what's built."

The problem in dealing with multi-family proposals, Smith contends, is that codes and by-laws governing them aren't sufficient. Much of the time, the Planning Commission is forced into approving developments because it complies with a weak comprehensive plan.

"Every time one comes up, we're told by staff that we don't have any choice," Smith said. "That means we're not a Planning Commission, we're an OK commission."

If a development does comply with the comprehensive plan and is rejected by the Planning Commission, it's a lawsuit waiting to happen, Smith said. If a development is approved, and many times it's to the chagrin of nearby property owners, a lawsuit is also possible.

It's a catch-22, a problem that can only be solved with a thorough comprehensive plan that's above reproach and fits the needs of the city.

Smith isn't laying the blame for the problem at the feet of city staff, however. Smith's proposal last week only highlighted a call for additional planning he feels is necessary for the city's long-term success.

"I think we all are pretty much on the same wave length, trying to get to the same end," he said. "It's just the in between is where things get real big."

The planning commission member said the comprehensive plan, which is currently being reviewed by city staff for possible revision, should be a "vision based plan," with timelines for completion dates and goals.

City officials have researched the legality of a moratorium on multi-family development. Any such action would require the moratorium have time restrictions such as 90 to 120 days.

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