Rush of rezoning applications feared as county deadline nears

Flurry expected because of ban between primary and general elections

April 23, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

Linda A. Dombrowski removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes softly, then tilted her head back -- exhausted.

Tammy J. CitaraManis looked, well, annoyed.

Who could blame them? After almost five hours, and pushing midnight, the county Planning Board members were dragging.

Unfortunately for them, the marathon meeting two weeks ago might have been the preamble to what the spring and early summer promise.

There are indications that the county will face a rush of rezoning applications as developers, and others, try to beat a three-month clock.

The reason for the anticipated flurry is the county prohibition on rezoning between the primary election in September and the November general election.

"What we saw at the last meeting is what we'll see the next couple of months," said board member David Grabowski.

The crunch, if it materializes, would affect not just the Planning Board but also the staff of the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Zoning Board.

The Planning Board is scheduled this week to consider two rezoning cases filed by developers as well as two proposed amendments to zoning regulations.

"These matters coming place a tremendous demand on our limited staff resources because the staff reports are meticulously researched and very detailed," said Steve Lafferty, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Zoning. "We take great pride in the quality of those."

To beat the clock

Final disposition of the cases essentially has to occur by the end of July to beat the clock, county officials say, because County Council members, who also make up the Zoning Board, typically do not meet in August.

County law prohibits the Zoning Board from acting on zoning issues until after the general election and the new County Council is seated.

"I think you'll see a rush before election time," said County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a west county Republican. "We can go through July, ... but we sort of close up in August.

"It's a lot to hear in that time frame, but, obviously, we want to hear as many as possible."

Lafferty said "the pressure" likely would be intense this spring "to develop any legislation or to get matters before the council."

The regulatory bodies might have to schedule additional meetings to handle the cases, Feaga said.

"If they regulate them properly, maybe they can handle one a week, or one every two weeks," he said.

The Planning Board, which is the first to consider rezoning cases, has been fairly consistent in limiting meetings to 3 1/2 hours since CitaraManis became chairwoman.

Almost five hours

But its April 6 meeting stretched to almost five hours, and would have gone longer had one rezoning case not been continued to the next week.

Grabowski said the board is concerned about being overwhelmed with zoning cases as "developers try to get under the wire."

But he also said the five-member board will resist being forced into handling more cases than it can prudently.

"We're not going to be pushed," he said. "Enough is enough. ... To be fair to everyone, we can only do so much. The people I serve with really care about the job they're doing."

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