Despite some confusion, new procedures will be tailored to alert downtown residents about large projects.
At the behest of the resident activist group STOP, the city is changing its policy for handling site plans associated with certain downtown projects.
In June, STOP sent a letter to the city taking issue with the development review procedures in place. Specifically, the city did not collect site plan review fees or notify residents when a developer filed a site plan and building permit application simultaneously — despite collecting fees and providing notice when a site plan was filed ahead of a building permit application.
STOP argued the code required fees and notice for larger projects regardless of whether a building permit was included with the site plan. On Monday, acting on the the advice of City Attorney Robert Fournier, the commission directed staff to adjust its procedures for processing site plans.
The 3-2 vote was not without some confusion. Tim Litchet, the city’s director of Neighborhood and Development Services, said there were two different sections in the code that outlined standards for site plan review. Litchet worried the commission’s recommended interpretation could require notification for all new buildings other than single-family homes or duplexes.
On Tuesday, Fournier said a forthcoming document will clarify the revised city policy. Fournier said the new requirement for notifications will only apply to certain projects within downtown — including those with eight or more dwelling units or 10,000 or more square feet of gross commercial floor area.
Fournier said his office would likely produce zoning code amendments designed to clarify the new procedures.
Kate Lowman, a member of STOP’s steering committee, said the group would watch closely to ensure the city follows through on its revised policy. If the city does apply the regulations as directed, Lowman said STOP was happy to help residents more easily learn about neighboring developments.
“Our objective has been and continues to be that the city provide adequate notice about large new projects, that they review those site plans and that they collect the fees for them they’re supposed to collect,” Lowman said.