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Planning Commission Training Planning Commission Training City of Thorne Bay June 14, 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Planning Commission Training Planning Commission Training City of Thorne Bay June 14, 2010."— Presentation transcript:


2 Planning Commission Training Planning Commission Training City of Thorne Bay June 14, 2010

3 What is Planning? Everyone plans. Planning is an activity that touches just about every aspect of life. Individuals plan their day, friends plan hunting trips, families plan for major purchases, businesses plan pricing, etc. The common thread that runs through these seemingly different activities is the time, effort, and expense that is saved in the future by thinking ahead and plotting a course of action today.


5 Community Benefits 4 Shapes the future 4 Identifies local issues 4 Identifies public values 4 Ties programs together 4 Promotes public involvement 4 Attracts appropriate development Planning benefits communities in the following ways: 4 Increases certainty 4 Protects natural resources 4 Improves public service efficiency 4 Minimizes land use conflicts 4 Promotes good design

6 Planning Characteristics 4 Creates order and predictability 4 Promotes efficient use of resources Identifies alternatives and procedures 4 Promotes community health and future viability


8 What is a Planning Commission? 4 Is an advisory group to the governing body on issues and activities related to planning, platting, land use regulation, and community development. 4 Has limited decision making power, but can have considerable influence. 4 Is responsible for keeping planning and land use related issues in perspective for the community.

9 Welcome to the Planning Commission An Effective Planning Commissioner Knows: 4 Planning commission authority and duties 4 How a planning commission operates 4 Standards for commission decision-making 4 Legal aspects of commission conduct 4 Comprehensive and other types of planning 4 Zoning, platting, and land-use regulation

10 Planning Commission Authority 4 AS 29.40 and local charters or ordinances define the authority and responsibilities of commission members. 4 Commission duties vary from community to community depending on factors including support for planning, community growth rate, prospective infrastructure development, and responsibilities prescribed by ordinance.

11 Planning Commission Authority (continued) 4 Prepare and submit to the assembly (city council) a proposed comprehensive plan in accordance with AS 29.40.030 for the systematic and organized development of the borough (or city). 4 Review, recommend, and administer measures necessary to implement the comprehensive plan including measures provided under AS 29.40.040. 4 Other duties as prescribed by local ordinance.

12 Alaska Statute: Title 29, Chapter 40 Planning, Platting and Land Use Regulation 4 29.40.010. A first or second class borough shall provide for planning, platting, and land use regulation on an areawide basis. 4 29.40.020. Each first and second class borough shall establish a planning commission consisting of five residents… the planning commission shall: –Prepare a comprehensive plan –Review, recommend, and administer measures to implement the comprehensive plan.


14 Planning Commission Duties 4 Prepare a comprehensive plan 4 Act as the platting authority 4 Review and recommend land use regulations 4 Review and recommend property rezones 4 Act on variances and conditional use permits 4 Review land acquisitions and disposals 4 Hear appeals from administrative decisions 4 Review and recommend capital improvements

15 Planning Commission Duties (continued) 4 Review annual planning budget 4 Approve planning departments annual work program 4 Initiate planning projects 4 Coordinate with other agencies plans 4 Conduct public meetings and hearings 4 Other duties as authorized by ordinance

16 City of Thorne Bay 2.48.010 Established – Purpose. There is established the planning commission for the city to constitute a department of the city and to perform the city-wide functions of the planning, platting, and zoning for the city, and to advise the chief executive officer and city council of them.

17 City of Thorne Bay 2.48.100 Planning commission duties. Prepare and submit to the city council a proposed comprehensive plan in accordance with AS 29.40.030 for the systematic and organized development of the city. Annually the commission shall review the comprehensive plan and shall recommend appropriate amendments. Prepare and submit a proposed coastal management plan. Annually, the commission shall review the coastal management plan and shall recommend appropriate amendments, if any, to the city council. Prepare, review, recommend, and administer measures necessary to implement the coastal management plan and comprehensive plan, including measures provided under AS 29.40.040 and other such land use control measures as the planning commission deems necessary to supplement zoning regulations, land use permit requirements and measures to further the goals and objectives of the coastal and comprehensive plans.

18 City of Thorne Bay 2.48.100 Planning commission duties. Prepare and recommend a subdivision ordinance and official map of the city and any recommended modifications to these documents. Publish notice and hold at least one public hearing before submitting the commissions recommendations. Annually review the capital improvements program and submit recommendations. Investigate and prepare, upon city council or CEO request, reports and recommendations on city land acquisitions, disposals, and development. Act as the platting board, act upon variances, and act upon requests for conditional uses. Act as an advisory commission to the CEO and city council regarding planning, platting, and zoning.

19 Characteristics of an Ideal Planning Commission 4 Balanced 4 Skilled 4 Understands community 4 Understands public process 4 Committed to planning 4 Maintains objectivity 4 Declared conflict of interests 4 Balanced special interests


21 Planning Commission Roles It is [or should be] a panel with knowledge of community character, local regulations, and community development practice. 4 Advisory Role - Advises the council or assembly. 4 Regulatory Role - Administers local land use regulations including zoning and subdivision ordinances. 4 Procedural Role - Conducts fair meetings and makes fair decisions.

22 The Commissions Relationship with Elected Officials The most important aspect of the relationship between the planning commission and the governing body is the is the planning commissions advisory role. The council or assembly has the authority to approve, deny, or change commission recommendations. A commission that has a good working relationship with the council can play a key role in keeping the council informed and educated about planning and community development issues.

23 The Commissions Relationship with Planning Staff Planning staff play a critical role in the planning process and effectiveness of the planning commission. 4 Administers land use regulation 4 Prepares reports and posts meeting notices 4 Researches planning and land use issues 4 Advises commission 4 Educates and assists the public 4 Knows and interprets laws and ordinances 4 Conducts community and capital projects planning 4 Negotiates – agencies, developers, and public 4 Enforces code and conditions of approval 4 Provides continuity

24 Public involvement gives the commission opportunity to educate, build support, and encourage ownership. 4 Improves trust in government. 4 Taps local knowledge and talent. 4 Creates sense of ownership in plan and regulations. 4 Creates a constituency in planning. 4 Ensures plan remains intact over time. 4 Increases overall plan quality. 4 Improves enforcement of land use laws 4 Streamlines planning process and development. The Commissions Relationship with Public

25 Practical Advice for Commissioners 4 Read packet before meeting 4 Seek staff assistance before meeting 4 Know comprehensive plan and zoning/platting codes 4 Be familiar with sites and projects 4 Share information 4 Focus on facts, not opinions 4 Summarize what you have heard 4 Participate in discussion 4 Be practical 4 Be a problem-solver, not a problem-maker 4 Be probing, but not argumentative 4 Respect your associates 4 Treat everyone equally 4 Attend meetings 4 Come on time to meetings

26 Do Not Fight Do not fight with the city council, assembly, or each other!


28 How Does the Planning Commission Make Decisions? 4 Using common sense 4 Thinking about what is in the best interest of the larger community 4 Considering the rules 4 Using persuasion or arguments based on testimony 4 Interpreting the comprehensive plan in accordance with legal requirements

29 Types of Commission Decisions Legislative Decisions make or interpret policy. Broad ranging and affect everyone in general and no one in particular. 4 Substantive due process (reasonableness of decision) applies 4 Examples: recommend to adopt a comprehensive plan, recommend capital improvement priorities, recommend code amendments. Quasi-Judicial Decisions have direct affect on rights and liabilities of a single person or small group. 4 Procedural due process (fairness of process) applies 4 Examples: granting zoning variances, issuing conditional use permits, issuing encroachment permits

30 Findings 4 Are a statement of the evidence and reasoning used by commission to arrive at a decision. 4 Must be supported by facts. 4 Are a road map that details the commissions reasoning process used to progress from evidence to decision. 4 Typically include request description, statement of facts, reasons for approval or denial, and conditions of approval.

31 Findings Should do the Following: 4 Set out the relevant facts from the evidence presented. 4 Relate these facts to the conditions that must be proved, or the standards that must be met. 4 State whether the relevant standard or condition is shown to have been met or not by the identified facts. 4 State whether all the necessary elements have been sufficiently shown. If there was no evidence given to prove one or more of the necessary elements, this lack of necessary evidence must be shown. 4 State whether the permit is granted or denied.

32 The Record 4 The Record is a collection of all the evidence presented to the commission during proceedings. 4 Is the foundation upon which the commissions decision rests. 4 Findings and the record protect the commission from legal challenges and explain commission decisions - even unpopular ones. 4 Is there substantial evidence in the record to support the commissions findings?

33 The Record Contains: 4 The application 4 Correspondence between applicant and staff 4 Written comments submitted by neighbors and other members of public 4 Oral evidence presented at hearing 4 Plats, plans, drawings, photographs, deeds, surveys, and consultant/expert reports 4 Written testimony 4 Records of mailed or published notice 4 Municipal records and other documents submitted during proceeding


35 Ex Parte Contact 4 Occurs when a commissioner has private communications with someone who has an interest in a quasi-judicial matter before the commission. 4 Provides a commissioner with information not available to other commissioners. –It can (or is meant to) influence decisions outside public session. 4 Violates due process in quasi-judicial matters. To correct ex parte contact: –Disclose contact and substance of conversation at meeting. Get the evidence on the record! –State whether you can still provide unbiased input.

36 Conflict of Interest 4 A person has a conflict of interest when he or she has a substantial financial interest in a matter before the commission. 4 State law does not define the term substantial financial interest. Local code of ordinances should define this term. 4 A planning commissioner cannot vote on any matter in which he or she has a substantial financial interest [ AS 29.20.010 (a)(4) ].

37 City of Thorne Bay Conflict of Interest 4 2.42.090 Conflict of interest. –No member of a committee, board or commission may vote on any question upon which he has a substantial direct or indirect financial interest. No member shall represent any person before the committee, board or commission of which he/she is a member.

38 City of Craig Conflict of Interest 4 18.02.040 Rules of proceedings. B. Abstention or Disqualification. A commission member shall abstain if he stands to make a personal financial gain or financial gain for spouse, child, mother, father, or business with which the member is associated or in which the member owns stock.

39 City of Coffman Cove Conflict of Interest 4 2.02.090 Conflicts of interest. –A council member, mayor, or other officer or employee of the city shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in any official action in which he or she has any financial interest.

40 City and Borough of Juneau 01.45 Conflict of Interest 4 Standards of Conduct 4 Disclosures, Declarations, and Complaints 4 Enforcement Procedures 4 Penalties 4 General Provisions

41 City and Borough of Juneau 01.45.360 Definitions. 4 Financial interest means any interest, other than securities traded on a national exchange, held by a municipal officer or an immediate family member, including involvement or ownership of an interest in a business, property, or a professional or private relationship, from which the person has received or expects to receive compensation. 4 Gain means actual or anticipated gain, benefit, profit, or compensation. 4 Benefit means anything that is to a persons financial or personal interest.

42 Open Meetings Act AS 44.62.310 (a): All meetings of a governmental body of a public entity are open to the public [with certain exceptions]. Ensures public has reasonable opportunity to observe governing decision-making. In general terms, the act requires : 4 Open forum for decision-making 4 Reasonable public notice of meetings 4 Teleconferencing for public meetings 4 Voting publicly on the record 4 Executive sessions


44 What is a Comprehensive Plan? 4 A blueprint for guiding community development. 4 A flexible document, not a uniform template. 4 A visionary document attempting to anticipate future events and needs. 4 A statement of policies, goals, and standards.

45 What is a Comprehensive Plan? (continued) 4 Provides a policy framework for decision-making regarding land use, transportation, housing, public facilities, and economic development. 4 Includes information on the many facets of a community including demographics, physical conditions, land use, environment, transportation, legal matters, and fiscal conditions. Reflects the vision and direction of residents!

46 A High-Quality Comprehensive Plan: 4 A systematic and comprehensive collection and analysis of data 4 Clear and comprehensive goals 4 Specific action-oriented policies for implementation 4 Local official support 4 Local community support 4 Current data and policies

47 Why Have a Comprehensive Plan? 4 Fulfills legal obligation 4 Meets grant eligibility requirements 4 Guides community and economic development 4 Guides decision-making 4 Establishes basis for regulation 4 Coordinates policy 4 Provides blueprint for growth 4 Represents future vision

48 City of Thorne Bay 2.48.100 Planning commission duties. Prepare and submit to the city council a proposed comprehensive plan in accordance with AS 29.40.030 for the systematic and organized development of the city. Annually the commission shall review the comprehensive plan and shall recommend appropriate amendments.

49 City of King Cove 13.01.010 Comprehensive Plan The King Cove Comprehensive Plan with Land Use Plan is herewith adopted as the plan of the city. The council and planning commission will, in every instance where development, community needs or other considerations are at issue, consult the Comprehensive Plan.

50 Aleutians East Borough Comprehensive Plan 40.10.010 Description and Purpose The Comprehensive Plan is a guide for the systematic and organized physical, social, and economic development, both public and private, of the Borough and serves as a long-range policy guide for the development of the Borough as a whole… The purpose of the Comprehensive Plan: 4 Encourage maximum, sound, and reasonable development and use of renewable and nonrenewable resources within the Borough; 4 Minimize adverse impacts of such development… 4 Promote a healthy and stable ecosystem; 4 Minimize the occurrence of incompatible land uses; and 4 Promote the health, welfare, and safety of Borough residents.



53 Plan Implementation Includes: 4 Zoning regulations 4 Zoning authorizations 4 Subdivision regulations 4 Additional implementation tools

54 AS 29.40.040 Land Use Regulation In accordance with a comprehensive plan adopted under AS 29.40.030 and in order to implement the plan, the assembly by ordinance shall adopt or amend provisions governing the use and occupancy of land that may include, but are not limited to, zoning regulations restricting the use of land and improvements by geographic districts.

55 Zoning Regulations Zoning Code Components: 4 Map depicting zoning districts including residential, industrial, and commercial. 4 Text indicating permitted, conditionally permitted, and prohibited land uses. Zoning is the conventional method of land use regulation that divides a municipality into districts or zones and adopts regulations concerning land use, placement, and building size, and space. It classifies land according to use (residential, commercial, industrial) and establishes standards governing each use.

56 The Purpose of Zoning 4 Promotes public safety, health, and general welfare. 4 Segregates incompatible land uses and activities. 4 Protects property values. 4 Regulates property use in accordance with community standards and values. 4 Creates uniform land use regulations. 4 Establishes ground rules for development through public process. 4 Prevents or reduces nuisances. 4 Conserves land for appropriate uses.

57 Zoning Authorizations Zoning ordinance includes: 4 Minimum lot size, lot width/depth, setbacks between structures, maximum building height, max/min lot coverage, and signage. 4 Zoning related authorizations including variances, conditional use permits, planned unit developments, home occupations, accessory uses, and non-conforming uses.

58 Conditional Use Permit 4 Land use not allowed outright in a particular zone, but could be permitted if conditions attached reduce or eliminate negative characteristics making the activity compatible with surrounding allowed uses. 4 Also called special exceptions or special permits. 4 Example: Church in a residential neighborhood. 4 Municipalities are free to design a conditional use permitting system. Caution: avoid use of vague standards.

59 City of Thorne Bay 2.40.010 Designated. Conditional use means a land use in a zoning district that is not specifically permitted, but may be compatible with existing and proposed uses under certain conditions.

60 Variance 4 A variance is an exception from the strict terms of the zoning (or platting) code. 4 It is a waiver of the provisions of the zoning ordinance when strict application of the ordinance would cause exceptional, practical difficulties, or undue hardship to the property owner. 4 Property standards are adjusted because the specific location, topography, shape, size, or other environmental features of the lot make it impossible to comply with zoning regulations as written.

61 Variances Under AS 29.40.040(b) According to Alaska law, a variance may not be granted if: 4 The special conditions that require the variance are caused by the person seeking the variance. 4 The variance will permit a land use in a district in which that use is prohibited. 4 The variance is sought solely to relieve financial hardship or inconvenience.

62 When Can a Variance be Granted? 4 Variances are granted when some unique condition related to the land (e.g., stream, steep embankment, rock outcrop) makes it impossible to comply with terms of zoning code. 4 Hardship must be linked to feature of land. 4 Applicant required to show neighbors will not be adversely affected by granting a variance. 4 Variances most often granted for relief from setback requirements, building height, or lot coverage.

63 City of Thorne Bay 2.40.010 Designated. Variance means an exception to a standard of a zoning district, but not to the use restriction of the zone.

64 City of Thorne Bay 17.04.044 Variance procedure. A variance is a tool that gives an applicant relief from the strict application of the zoning title. It will permit a justifiable exemption or exception to the development requirements of the title when their imposition would result in unnecessary hardship or practical difficulties…

65 City of Thorne Bay 17.04.044 Variance procedure. Zoning limits the use of property and structures. A variance can lessen some of the limits that zoning imposes. To be granted a variance, the applicant must show how the zoning title impedes development on his/her property more than it would on other property within the same zone. In other words, the applicant is responsible for showing how the strict application of the zoning title will hurt him/her more than other land owners within the same zone.

66 City of Thorne Bay 17.04.044 Variance procedure. Criteria for Approval: 4 Exceptional physical conditions or circumstances on property that make variance necessary; 4 Conditions not caused by person requesting variance; 4 Strict application of provisions would result in unnecessary hardship; 4 Not detrimental to health, safety, or welfare of other properties in vicinity; 4 Will not allow a land use in a zone that is already prohibited; 4 Consistent with comprehensive plan; 4 Not requested because of monetary reasons;

67 Subdivision Regulations 4 Guides the conversion of land into improved or developed land consistent with technical requirements and community standards. 4 Shapes a communitys character. 4 Subdivision Regulation Ordinance – regulates land division into building lots for the purpose of sale, development, or lease. –Specifies procedure when land is subdivided and built upon. –Assures land development is appropriately and consistently completed.

68 Why Regulate Land Subdivision? To assure newly created lots do not become or do not create unanticipated costs for owners, municipality, or neighbors. 4 Establish street pattern design 4 Establish consistent street design dimensions 4 Provide utility easements 4 Provide water supply and sewage disposal 4 Develop lot layout and ensure access

69 What is Platting? Platting is a largely technical activity that is fundamentally different than zoning: 4 It establishes standards for subdividing land and places certain requirements on those divisions. 4 It assures lots are created in accordance with community standards and are properly surveyed and recorded. 4 It sets a pattern of physical development that is, for all practical purposes, irreversible.

70 Additional Plan Implementation Tools 4 Municipal Land Management Program 4 Municipal land disposal methods 4 Capital Improvement Program 4 Alaska Coastal Management Program 4 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program 4 Sanitation master plans 4 Municipal budget 4 Design review standards 4 Floodplain regulations 4 State and Federal planning programs 4 Historic preservation standards 4 Environmental impact assessments

71 Concluding Thoughts 4 Planning is a collective effort between citizens, elected officials, and the planning commission. 4 When an effective and collaborative planning process flourishes in a community, the vision of the citizens, planning commissioners, and elected officials can be achieved.

72 Questions or Comments? Nicole Grewe, Ph.D. Division of Community and Regional Affairs Planning and Land Management Section Direct: (907) 465-8249 Email: Ruth St. Amour Division of Community and Regional Affairs Alaska Coastal Management Program Direct: (907) 26-4527 Email:

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