Improving the process of alerting residents near proposed projects --- commercial, residential or otherwise --- within Paradise Valley town limits appears to be a topic of interest for some.
The Paradise Valley Planning Commission, Tuesday, Oct. 15, discussed potential items to bring forward to Town Council for its annual update.
The makeup of the Hillside Building Committee, the statement of direction process and the notification of properties when a project is planned are all topics the Planning Commission may broach with Paradise Valley Town Council this December.
The Planning Commission is a group of seven residents appointed by Town Council to provide recommendations on a wide array of land-use issues; including: Subdivision plats, lot splits, zoning ordinance amendments, special use permits, and General Plan amendments.
The Planning Commission is also the primary entity responsible for long term, comprehensive planning and often acts as the advisory committee on long term plans.
Vice Mayor Scott Moore sat in on the conversation as a council liaison. Councilmember Paul Dembow was also reportedly in the audience, and Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner stopped by for a few minutes, before meeting a local Boy Scouts group who was visiting Town Hall for a tour.
The Planning Commissioners and staff discussed some areas of interest they would like to tackle in the upcoming year, as well as following up on general procedure and process. A formal presentation is planned to be presented to Town Council this winter, officials say.
According to Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp, the issue of notification has been brought up by Commissioner Thomas Campbell two or three times in the past year. Mr. Campbell was not at the Planning Commission meeting.
“The noticing --- the 1,500 feet --- and sometimes we’re on Scottsdale’s border and we notice 2,000 properties where three-quarters of them are in Scottsdale,” Mr. Knapp said. “To me that’s maybe an example of how if we had a different procedure about how we notify when we border an adjacent municipality because we’re sending so many notices at a cost.”
Commission Chair Jonathan Wainwright noted a lot of the Commissioners whine about that issue frequently.
Commissioner Pamela Georgelos said one thing she’s noticed in the past year is the level of community involvement in the projects working their way through the Commission.
“How do we make sure that the needs and interests of all of the people who are concerned about various projects are addressed? Is it better to get them involved in the process sooner rather than later? Is the process as it works right now really moving forward properly?” she pondered.
“I think that’s one of the things that really could bubble up to think about --- in terms of how to address our constitutes needs, how to address the neighbors needs. It is always a balancing between a project and the neighboring properties.”
Mr. Moore said the council sees that issue as well, and they’re always looking to come to a compromise with neighbors and applicants.
“I think sometimes where we have challenges is when people say, ‘I didn’t even know about this.’ So we’re spending a lot of time on making sure we’re communicating through all of our staff and our website,” Mr. Moore said. “We’ve also looked at the noticing area and expanding that, certainly in certain [Special Use Permit] properties that would be visible town-wide.”
Mr. Knapp says if there’s an opportunity at the council’s development retreat, there are thoughts from the staff perspective on areas they could do better.
“One of the things I would say if I were asked that question, would be I don’t think it’s fair for us to notify someone 15-days before a public hearing, when there could have been three months of Planning Commission hearings prior to that,” Mr. Knapp said.
“When an application is deemed complete at a staff level, and so we are going to start really reviewing it and talking about it in a public forum --- that’s when this should be notifying people that this is starting. Not wait until ‘OK, now we’re going to have a hearing.’”
Mr. Knapp also suggested putting the sign alerting residents to the proposed application on a certain property, up earlier than 15-days before the public hearing.
“That’s where I was going to go --- and I think probably our signs could be increased in size, so they catch people’s [attention],” Mr. Moore said.
A new focus on old manuals
According to Mr. Moore, the council plans to revisit the discussion of training manuals. Town leaders first started talking about training manuals with former-Town Manager Kevin Burke, but it was never completed.
“We’re going to pick that back up, so a lot of things we can address we can address in there,” Mr. Moore said.
A topic brought up by Mr. Wainwright in the past is the makeup of the Hillside Building Committee.
This Committee consists of five members – two citizens appointed by the council and three rotating Planning Commissioners. It is a code compliance review committee whose purpose is to review new construction applications for adherence to the Hillside Code.
The Committee reviews land disturbance, heights, lighting, building materials, grading and drainage, and other issues in an effort to preserve the hillside.
“A frustration I had, I think because of rotation on and off of it, it seems like a large percentage of properties that we look at, either weren’t there for the first presentation or we weren’t there for the last one,” Mr. Wainwright said.
“It’s something for council to think about in general --- I don’t have the exact answer. I think all Commissioners make good Hillside Building members. Is it appropriate to have a majority of Hillside Building Committee constantly rotating on and off? And, should it necessarily be dominated by Planning Commission like it is now?”
Mr. Wainwright said the Committee has been made up different in the past, and a potential change could be three residents and only two Planning Commission members.
Planning Commission Daran Wastchak asked if the council would be discussing the Statement of Direction process, and how information moves back and forth. The SOD is a document issued by Town Council giving the Planning Commission guidelines of scrutiny for major projects.
The Council will outline a number of areas they want the Commission to focus on during their initial review of redevelopment plans.
“I’m sure it will be --- everything we’ve been doing as this current council we’re going to be having a ‘look back’ on,” Mr. Moore said.
“Same as we’re talking about here, anything we can improve on or work on to be more clear and defined for Planning Commission.”
Mr. Wastchak says around the SOD process is that the Commission gets the mind of the council and can work from that starting point.
“It seems to me that maybe there’s still some room to keep looking at that, so we can make that a smoother process between Commission and council,” Mr. Wastchak said.