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Planning Commission Short Course Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Division of Community and Regional Affairs September 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Planning Commission Short Course Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Division of Community and Regional Affairs September 2009."— Presentation transcript:


2 Planning Commission Short Course Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Division of Community and Regional Affairs September 2009


4 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 The Planning Process


7 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

8 Why do Communities Need to Plan? 4 Planning saves money. 4 Planning establishes ground rules. 4 Planning can support economic development. 4 Planning provides a forum for community consensus. 4 Planning can promote community design. 4 Planning can protect property and property values. 4 Planning can reduce environmental damage and conserve resources.

9 Planning Characteristics 4 Creates order and predictability: Land use plan guides development policies and public investment in infrastructure. Coastal management plan prioritizes coastal use. City budget forecasts revenue collection and spending. 4 Promotes efficient use of resources: Locates new developments near existing utilities. Anticipates problems before they become crises. Coordinates and schedules capital improvements. Reserves scarce waterfront for water-dependent resources.

10 Planning Characteristics (continued) 4 Identifies alternatives and procedures: Evaluates, accepts or rejects courses of action. Identifies steps that lead to plan realization. Combines vision with community needs. Promotes community health and future viability: Inventories resources and analyzes planning alternatives. Community actively meets old goals and identifies new goals. Improved community leadership through enhanced knowledge, improved problem-solving skills, and critical analysis of alternatives.

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

12 The Opposite of Planning 4 Disorganization 4 Confusion 4 Redundancy 4 Lack of priorities 4 Poor decisions 4 Waste of time, money, land, and resources

13 Planning is NOT Magic 4 Produce miracles 4 Exclude newcomers 4 Succeed without implementing planned policies 4 Restore economic health overnight 4 Succeed without balance 4 Work to the benefit of your community unless you want it to Planning Cannot:

14 Brief History of Planning and Zoning 4 Planned Cities: Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. 4 Alaska examples: Anchorage, Palmer, Skagway 4 Community design vs. community planning 4 Ambler Reality v. City of Euclid (1926) set legal precedent for enforcing zoning 4 Standard City Planning Enabling Act (1928) impetus for land subdivision control 4 AS Title 29 establishes provisions for comprehensive planning, platting, and zoning


16 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

17 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.

18 Planning Commission Authority 4 AS 29.40.020 and local charters or ordinances define the authority and responsibilities of commission members. Sec. 29.40.020. Planning commission. (a) Each first and second class borough shall establish a planning commission consisting of five residents unless a greater number is required by ordinance. Commission membership shall be apportioned so that the number of members from home rule and first class cities reflects the proportion of borough population residing in home rule and first class cities located in the borough.

19 Planning Commission Authority AS 29.40.020. Planning commission (continued). (a) … A member shall be appointed by the borough mayor for a term of three years subject to confirmation by the assembly, except that a member from a home rule or first class city shall be selected from a list of recommendations submitted by the council. Members first appointed shall draw lots for one, two, and three year terms. Appointments to fill vacancies are for the unexpired term. The compensation and expenses of the planning commission and its staff are paid as directed by the assembly.

20 Delegation of Authority 4 AS 29.40.010 authorizes first and second class boroughs to delegate planning, platting and land use regulation authority. Sec. 29.40.010. Planning, platting, and land use regulation. (a) A first or second class borough shall provide for planning, platting, and land use regulation on an areawide basis. (b) If a city in a borough consents by ordinance, the assembly may by ordinance delegate any of its powers and duties under this chapter to the city. The assembly may by ordinance, without first obtaining the consent of the city, revoke any power or duty delegated under this section.

21 Delegation of Authority From Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan: Borough has delegated authority to enact and enforce zoning and land use regulations (zoning powers) to cities of Homer, Kenai, Seldovia, Seward and Soldotna for land within their boundaries. Borough has not delegated planning powers to cities.

22 Delegation of Authority From Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan: Borough has delegated authority to enact and enforce zoning and land use regulations (zoning powers) to cities of Homer, Kenai, Seldovia, Seward and Soldotna for land within their boundaries. Borough has not delegated planning powers to cities.

23 Delegation of Authority Cities within Borough have also assumed authority to provide various other services to city residents, as provided in Title 29 of State Statutes and municipal ordinances, including: road construction and maintenance port and harbor authority, police and fire protection utilities parks and recreation, animal control.

24 Planning Commission Authority 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. 4 Seldovia has a city planning commission and an adopted city comprehensive plan. After adoption by the City, comprehensive plan is forwarded to the Kenai Peninsula Borough for adoption by ordinance.

25 Planning Commission Authority (continued) Seldovia Municipal Code (18.04.030) 4 Planning Commission Powers and Duties –Advisory to City Council and Borough. –Administer Borough ordinances –Administer of City Ordinances –Prepare, and amend overall plan for the City

26 Planning Commission Authority (continued) –Carry out investigations for recommendations to the Council. –Prepare and present to City Council proposed ordinances or programs relating to building and land use. –Adopt rules and regulations to carry out duties. –Employ personnel necessary for commission work and be reimbursed through city treasury for necessary expenses.

27 Planning Commission Composition Each city or borough with a planning commission must pass an ordinance identifying: 4 Membership quantity 4 Member qualifications 4 Commission duties 4 Procedure for filling-vacancies 4 Regular meeting frequency 4 Dedicated staff person 4 General operating procedures

28 Planning Commission Composition City of Seldovias Ordinance: Chapter 18.04 (Title 18) of Seldovia Municipal Code 4 18.04.010 Created-Officers. 4 18.04.020 Terms of members. 4 18.04.030 Powers and duties.

29 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

30 Typical Planning Commission Duties 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

31 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

32 Characteristics of an Ideal Planning Commission Having motivated and responsible members on the commission can be critical to its success as a productive and respected group.


34 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.

35 The Commissions Relationship with Staff and 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 city council or borough 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.


37 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.

38 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!

39 AS 29.40.030. Comprehensive plan. (a) The comprehensive plan is a compilation of policy statements, goals, standards, and maps for guiding the physical, social, and economic development, both private and public, of the first or second class borough, and may include, but is not limited to, the following: (1) statements of policies, goals, and standards; (2) a land use plan; (3) a community facilities plan; (4) a transportation plan; and (5) recommendations for implementation of the comprehensive plan.

40 AS 29.40.030. Comprehensive plan. (b) With the recommendations of the planning commission, the assembly shall adopt by ordinance a comprehensive plan. The assembly shall, after receiving the recommendations of the planning commission, periodically undertake an overall review of the comprehensive plan and update the plan as necessary.

41 Comprehensive Plans Include: 4 General statement of goals and objectives 4 Background Report - regional needs, local resources, population trends, existing facilities 4 Land Use Plan 4 Community Facilities Plan 4 Other Plans - parks/recreation, flood mitigation, coastal management, transportation, open space, housing, annexation

42 Comprehensive Plans Include: (continued) 4 Recommendations for implementation – principles, policies, standards 4 Plans from other agencies and communities 4 Strategies for improving the local economy

43 A High-Quality Comprehensive Plan Includes: 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

44 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

45 The comprehensive plan can work for your community only if you are committed to its success and invest time and effort in its preparation and implementation. Listen to your community.

46 City of Seldovias Comprehensive Plan

47 Community Vision: Building on Seldovias heritage, beautiful natural setting, and strategic location, our community vision includes: An attractive, healthy, vibrant and safe community. A process for orderly growth. City government and local tribal organizations that work cooperatively while facilitating investments in infrastructure, economic development, training and other issues that affect our community.

48 Setting Goals and Establishing Objectives Goal: Goal: To achieve and maintain a high level of water quality in the surface waters, wetlands, groundwater and marine waters of the City. Objectives are specific actions that can be taken to achieve a goal. Goals are relatively broad statements about the results the community wishes to achieve. Objective1: Objective1: Continue to pursue funding and assistance to help map the locations and improve understanding of the ecological functions of wetlands. Objective 2: Objective 2: To minimize negative impacts to water quality from dredging, filling, and grading in water bodies, wetlands, and intertidal areas.

49 What is a Good Policy? 4 Easy to understand 4 Specific 4 Uses simple words 4 Realistic 4 Makes sense 4 Feasible 4 Relates to decisions 4 Identifies a responsible party 4 May identify timeframes A well-written policy is easy to understand, is achievable within the means of the city, is specific without being too detailed, and is well-related to the goals and inventory data of the plan.

50 What is a Bad Policy? 4 Vague 4 Confusing 4 Hard to understand 4 Contains awkward sentences 4 Uses uncommon words 4 Too broad 4 Unrealistic assumptions or outcomes 4 Unfeasible 4 Does not make sense A poorly-written policy is open to interpretation, is not realistic to achieve, is vaguely or broadly worded, and is poorly linked to the plans goals and inventory data.


52 Plan Implementation Includes: 4 Zoning regulations 4 Zoning authorizations 4 Subdivision regulations 4 Additional implementation tools such as building codes

53 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.

54 Zoning Regulations

55 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.

57 The Legal Basis for Zoning 4 The Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty (1926) 4 AS 29.40.040(a) provides municipal authority for planning, platting, and land use regulation. 4 A municipality must adopt a comprehensive plan before it may enforce a zoning ordinance: –Comprehensive plan = policy document –Zoning ordinance = regulatory document (how you make the comprehensive plan work).

58 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.

59 City of Seldovias Zoning Code

60 City of Seldovias Zoning Map

61 Conditional Use Permits

62 What is a 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.

63 Seldovia Municipal Code Chapter 18.72 Conditional Use Permits 18.72.010 Intent. It is the intent of this section to provide the flexibility necessary to permit a use within a district under specified conditions that are in addition to regulations applying to uses permitted outright within the district. Only uses which have been listed as conditional uses for each district maybe permitted under this chapter. 18.72.020 General Conditions. Prior to obtaining a conditional use permit, it shall be established that the use satisfies the following conditions: A. The use as proposed is consistent with the purpose of this zoning code and the purpose of the zoning district;

64 Seldovia Municipal Code Chapter 18.72 Conditional Use Permits B. The value of the adjoining property will not be significantly impaired; C. The proposed use is in harmony with the comprehensive plan and with surrounding land uses; D. Public services and facilities are adequate to serve the proposed use; and E. Any and all specific measures deemed necessary by the City Planning Commission to fulfill the above-mentioned conditions shall be met by the applicant. Measures relating to access, screening, site development, building construction, operation of the use and other similar aspects of the proposed use maybe utilized by the Commission to assure the specified conditions are met.

65 Variances

66 What is a 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.

67 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.

68 Two Types of Variances Use Variance 4 Permits a use otherwise prohibited in a given zoning district. 4 AS 29.40.40(b) prohibits for general law municipalities and allows for home rule municipalities. Area Variance 4 Provides relief from setback, frontage, height, density, and similar requirements. 4 Permitted by AS 29.40.40(b) for general law and home rule municipalities.

69 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.

70 Seldovia Municipal Code Chapter 18.76 Variances 18.76.010 Intent. A variance maybe granted to provide relief when a literal enforcement of this zoning code would deprive a property owner of the reasonable use of his real property.

71 Seldovia Municipal Code Chapter 18.76 Variances 18.76.020 Conditions Precedent to Granting a Variance. A. All of the following conditions shall be found before a variance maybe granted: 1. A literal interpretation of the provisions of the City Zoning Code would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district. 2. Special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land or structures involved and which are not applicable to other lands and structures in the same district. 3. The special conditions and circumstances have not been caused by actions of the applicant.

72 Building Codes

73 A building code is a collection of laws and ordinances established and enforced by local government that specify minimum standards of construction for buildings to protect public safety and health. 4 A building code will typically provide standards for all aspects of the building construction, from fire and structural concerns to plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. 4 This collection of laws and ordinances will be arranged in a systematic manner, or codified, to make reference easy.

74 Building Codes Meeting minimum safety codes in construction projects is important for several reasons: 4 For the safety of the people using the building 4 For the well-being of the greater community by reducing the risk events that can impact the greater community such as of fire and disease 4 For energy conservation 4 For your ability to sell your building and its future use. Future owners should be reasonably assured of the safety of the building they buy.

75 Building Codes If you are planning a building project, one of the first things you should determine is whether your community has a building code, and whether you will need to apply for a building (and/or other) permit for your construction project.

76 The City of Seldovias Building Code

77 Building Permits

78 City of Seldovia Building Permit Process Chapter 17.04 Building Code 17.04.020 Building Permits. A. Required. No person shall make any exterior structural change in or addition to any building, or construct any new building or structure, exempting unattached structures of one hundred square feet or less, within the city without first securing a building permit. A form is available at the city office if an individual questions whether or not a building permit is required. A verbal response from city staff or individual Seldovia Planning and Zoning Commission members to build without a permit is not acceptable. A written response containing reasons why the individual is exempt from building permit requirements must be obtained from the official who interprets the code.

79 City of Seldovia Building Permit Process Chapter 18.08 Design and Platting Requirements 18.08.020 Building permit review. No permit shall be issued under Chapter 11.04 or section 17.04.020 without the application being first submitted to the Commission for its approval or rejection, except that if an application under section 17.04.020 is pending before the Commission without action for more than thirty business days and there is not a possibility of a special meeting held by the Commission to review the application, the City Manager may review the building permit application. If all requirements are met, the City Manager may approve the application and the City Office will issue a building permit. (Ord. 00- 08)

80 City of Seldovia Building Permit Process Building Permit Package

81 Who Needs a Building Permit? According to Title 17 of the Seldovia Municipal Code : any exterior structural change in or addition to any building, or construction of any new building or structure, exempting unattached structures of 100 square feet or less, anywhere within the city limits or at the airport. This includes the addition of walkways, decks, wall bump-outs, stairways, or any other modification to a structure that affects the lot coverage.

82 What Does Title 17 Cover? Title 17 establishes: Building code Electrical code Plumbing code Mechanical code Building efficiency standards Fire prevention code that all construction within the city must meet.

83 Other City Regulations Applicant Must Meet Title 18 establishes City Zoning Codes: Regulate location and use of all buildings within the city including : setbacks from lot lines building height visibility parking other requirements

84 City of Seldovia Building Permit Process Order of the permitting process for the applicant: 1. Request from lot line adjustment, easement or right of way. (This will require City Council approval) 2. Request for Conditional Use Permit in a zone not specially zoned for such use. 3. Permit from outside agency, i.e., Fire Marshall, Corps, DNR, Coastal Management, etc. 4. Variance from an existing requirement within a specific zone. 5. If none of the above apply, then the request for the building permit itself.

85 Building Permit Checklist Is building project within property boundaries? (Lot surveyed recommended/not required) Does building project comply with zoning restrictions?

86 Building Permit Checklist Does building project meet regulations relating to: Permitted uses or prohibited uses Performance standards Conditional use Minimum lot size and width Parking area Lot coverage Building setback Visibility at access points and intersections Building height Special requirements

87 Building Permit Checklist Other: Complete application submitted, with owners signature, for building permit with $20.00 fee to the City Office. Drawings are legible and able to be photocopied. (no pencils) Map of lot location in the City. Map showing how the building will sit on the lot.

88 Building Permit Checklist Required Drawings: A map of the lot location in the city (Available at the City Office) A lot plot showing all of the following: Actual lot size and shape Location of proposed construction Location of required parking spaces Location of existing structures on the site Dimensions of structures and proposed construction.

89 Building Permit Checklist Required Drawings: Setback dimensions from all property lines A floor plan of the construction which clearly indicates the proposed use of the structure

90 Building Permit Checklist Recommended Drawings: Plan views of the proposed construction/building showing front, side, and rear views Construction details which identify the type of materials and technique of the project Drawings which detail any other aspect of building code compliance

91 Building Permit Review

92 Additional Plan Implementation Tools 4 Municipal Entitlement Program 4 Municipal Land Management Program 4 Municipal land disposal methods 4 Capital Improvement Program 4 Local Enforceable Policies under the 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

93 The Record of Decision 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?

94 The Record Should Contain: 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

95 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.

96 Thank you! Sally Russell Cox, Planner III Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Division of Community and Regional Affairs 550 West 7 th Avenue, Suite 1770 Anchorage, Alaska 99508 Phone: 907-269-4588 Email:

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