Everyone plays a position in the town planning
January 29, 2004
First, the rules. There are two objects of our game. One is to get approval and permits for a land use proposal, and the other is to ensure that the proposal is in compliance with the rule books. The type of land use approval you are seeking will dictate what type of rules you have to follow. To make things simple, there are two types of permits – ministerial and discretionary. Ministerial permits are the ones you get over the counter, such as building permits. Permits that have to be reviewed by the planning division for compliance with the rule books are called “discretionary permits” and include variances, use permits, sign permits, zoning clearances, subdivisions … and the list goes on.
The discretionary review process is much more involved and requires the assistance of one or more of the “referees,” such as the Historic Preservations Advisory Commission (HPAC), the community development director, the zoning administrator, planning commission or the town council.
HPAC reviews projects that relate to exterior changes to all properties within the historic downtown district and comment on such aspects as design, materials, color, fixtures and setbacks in order to ensure that historic character is obtained and maintained. HPAC then forwards a recommendation to the appropriate hearing body for final approval or denial on the project.
Community Development Director (CDD) Tony Lashbrook typically reviews projects that do not necessarily include involvement by the community. He is responsible for reviewing administrative and amendment interpretations, historic design review proposals within the historic overlay district, sign permits, temporary use permits, zoning clearance, lot line adjustments and parcel mergers.
The zoning administrator (ZA) – Tony serves this function, too – is responsible for conducting public hearings on variances, minor use permits, certificates of compliance, lot line adjustments for more than 10 parcels, reversions to acreage and tentative maps for minor subdivisions
In addition to the ZA, other referees include the planning commission, currently consisting of Chairman Bob Jensen and board members Nancy Richards, Paul Leyton, Nikki Riley and Robie Wilson Litchfield. The planning commission is responsible for reviewing projects relating to use permits, tentative maps for major subdivisions, and the demolition of historic buildings. This review authority not only acts as an appeal board for decisions rendered by the CDD and ZA, but also makes recommendations to the town council for amendments to the rule books.
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At the town council player position in our game, we have Ron Florian, Ted Owens, Beth Ingalls, Vice Mayor Craig Threshie, and Mayor Josh Susman. The town council does much more than just review land use proposals, but we will get into that in later articles. When it comes to examination of projects that have gone through the review process, the town council also uses the general plan and development code as guides.
The general plan and development code – the rulebooks – outline a clear set of parameters within which a proposal may be accepted or rejected. The referees have little latitude in decision-making outside these parameters. The discretionary nature of their charge allows some latitude in what projects must fit into our environment and with the character of the community in order to be fully acceptable. Rules for this are not clearly outlined, which often makes preparing for the game a bit more difficult.
Now for the most important players: You, the community.
Members of the community play two roles, that of players, those people who actively participate in the public process either by attending meetings where they may or may not speak about an issue, by writing letters or by participating on citizen’s advisory committees to address specific issues.
The other role of the community is that of the audience, those who may or may not keep in touch with current events and issues, and simply choose not to be involved for whatever reasons.
To gain a greater understanding of the entire process, in the next article we will play a hypothetical game and take our readers through the land use permit process, which includes the players and the rule book. We have chosen an amusement park on the Mill Site – something silly and outrageous – as our hypothetical project and have requested a pre-application meeting with Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook and Town Planner Duane Hall to get started. Next column we will let you know the results of that meeting.
Heidi Scoble is Associate Planner for Truckee, and Robie Wilson Litchfield sits on the Truckee Planning Commission. They can be reached at email@example.com.