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  Item # 3.b.       
Meeting Date: 01/20/2016  
Requested by: Bayer Vella
Submitted By: Chad Daines, Development Infrastructure Services
Department: Community Development & Public Works  

Information
SUBJECT:
PUBLIC HEARING: ORDINANCE NO. (O)16-02, AMENDING SECTION 22.15 AND RELATED SECTIONS OF THE ZONING CODE REGARDING NEIGHBORHOOD MEETINGS
RECOMMENDATION:
The Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the amendment, as provided in Attachment 1. 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
In November, 2014, Town Council initiated this Zoning Code amendment regarding neighborhood meetings and an update to the Public Participation and Notification Policy (Policy). The overarching goal was to align the Zoning Code and the Policy with current neighborhood meeting practices.

Councilmembers Zinkin and Hornat were assigned to work with staff on development of the amendment and update. This work resulted in the following three draft documents:

Zoning Code Amendment (Attachment 1): This item is a formal amendment to the Zoning Code. As such, this will be the only item voted on by Town Council. Key topics are as follows:

• Maintains the requirement for two meetings, with limited exceptions
• Removes neighborhood meeting content requirements and moves to the Policy
• Amends the timing requirements for meetings 
• Adds requirements for mailed notice and sign posting, 15 days prior to the meeting
• Establishes the notification radius for mailed notices to align with other public hearing and meeting requirements

Policy Update (Attachment 2): The Policy update, which is intended as a standard operating procedure for staff, will be adopted administratively to allow this document to be updated as best practices evolve. Discussion, direction and feedback from Town Council is requested. Key topics are as follows:

• Amends meeting content requirements to reflect current practices
• Allows for alternative formats for third and subsequent meetings   
• Requires educational materials to be posted on the Project Website    
• Provides for enhanced notification methods in appropriate cases
   
Meeting Survey (Attachment 3): The survey will be adopted administratively to allow for refinement over time. Discussion, direction and feedback from Town Council is requested. The Meeting Survey was designed with the intent of garnering resident input on neighborhood meetings, with the goal of continuous feedback.

The Zoning Code Amendment, Policy Update and Meeting Survey were considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a Study Session on November 16, 2015 and a Public Hearing on December 1, 2015. These attached documents incorporate the consensus input from the Commission, which is outlined in the Background section of this report.  

At the conclusion of the Public Hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the Zoning Code Amendment as provided in Attachment 1. This item is a formal amendment to the Zoning Code and as such, will be the only item voted on by Town Council.

The Policy (Attachment 2) and the Meeting Survey (Attachment 3) will be adopted administratively to enable refinement over time. Discussion, direction and feedback on these documents from Town Council is requested.
BACKGROUND OR DETAILED INFORMATION:
The current Zoning Code language and Policy were adopted in 2009 following input from a committee comprised of advisory board members, elected officials and interested parties. The 2009 Policy is provided as Attachment 4 for reference. The neighborhood meeting process has evolved over time, necessitating revisions to the Zoning Code and Policy. The primary goal of the amendments is to align the Zoning Code and Policy with current neighborhood meeting practices.

This section of the report has been divided into subsections addressing the three documents related to the request; Zoning Code Amendment, Policy Update, and Meeting Survey. The below subsections include elements recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission at their November 16, 2015 Study Session and December 1, 2015 Public Hearing.

Zoning Code Amendment (Attachment 1) As previously stated, this will be the only item formally voted on by Town Council. The amendment addresses the following topics:

Meeting Content and Number of Meetings

The Zoning Code Amendment removes the meeting content requirements, which have been amended and incorporated into the Policy to allow for continual refinement as best practices evolve.

The Zoning Code amendment maintains the current requirement for two neighborhood meetings, with limited exceptions.

Timing of Meetings

The current Zoning Code requires two neighborhood meetings, both of which must occur prior to formal submittal of the application. The amendment allows the first meeting to occur prior to formal submittal, the second meeting prior to public hearings and allows subsequent meetings during the public hearing process.

The amended timing of meetings enables staff to review the formal submittal after the first meeting and come prepared to discuss specific project details and code requirements at second and subsequent meetings. This timing also allows residents to be involved throughout the process, rather than only being involved at the beginning stages.

Public Notice

The current Zoning Code does not provide a specific notification radius nor timing requirement for mailed notices. The amendment establishes the notification radius for mailed notices at 1,000 feet for general plan amendments and 600 feet for all other development applications and requires the notice be mailed within 15 days of the meeting.

Staff's practice has been to use these distances for neighborhood meeting notices and the amendment merely codifies current practices for mailed notices. These distances match the notification radius for public hearings, ensuring that the same residents will be notified of all meetings throughout the process. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed expanding the notification boundary to 2,500+ feet (approximately 1/2 mile) as suggested by one Commissioner. The Planning and Zoning Commission did not recommend expanding the notice boundary beyond the current practices, based on the following considerations:
  • The Planning and Zoning Commission considered three representative examples of notification boundaries (Attachment 5).  As can be seen from these examples, the number of residents notified ranges from 483 to 673, a significant number of residents in each case
  • Expanding the notice boundary to 2,500+ feet (approximately 1/2 mile) would have the effect of requiring notice to properties in excess of a square mile for all applications
  • The Zoning Code permits the Planning and Zoning Administrator to expand the notice boundary to include entire subdivisions or areas impacted by the request.  The notice boundary is regularly expanded based on this provision
  • The notification distances significantly exceed State Law requirements for public hearings, which requires only a newspaper advertisement and no mailed notice
The current Zoning Code also does not formally require sign postings on the property, although it has been staff practice to post properties. The amendment establishes a requirement to post 3 foot by 4 foot signs on the property, 15 days prior to the meeting.  

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed further increasing the size of the signs posted on the property and requiring the applicant to pay for the cost of installing and maintaining the sign over the course of the project, which is a common practice in other jurisdictions. If this approach is supported, a separate amendment should be initiated to comprehensively address the sign posting requirements throughout the Zoning Code to include not only neighborhood meetings, but also sign posting requirements for all public hearings before advisory boards and Town Council.

The amendment provides reference to other additional methods of public notice approved by the Planning and Zoning Administrator as appropriate. These additional methods are further outlined in the Policy.

Related Amendments

References throughout the Zoning Code to neighborhood meetings have been amended to refer to the Public Participation section, eliminating conflicting and incomplete requirements for neighborhood meetings.

Policy (Attachment 2)  As previously stated, this document will be adopted administratively. Discussion, direction and feedback from Town Council is requested. The Policy addresses the following topics:

Meeting Content

The current Zoning Code and 2009 Policy outline specific meeting content requirements as follows:

Meeting 1 (Educational Session): This meeting is intended to be devoted entirely to education on existing conditions, zoning, general plan, application processing and criteria used in evaluation of the proposal. The applicant may not participate in this educational session and the specific development proposal is not discussed.

Meeting 2 (Applicant Presentation): This meeting is intended for the applicant to present the specific development proposal, identify issues and strive to find mutually acceptable solutions.

This meeting approach has been used in the past and has frustrated residents, who leave the first meeting without understanding the specific project being proposed by the applicant. The primary focus for residents at the first neighborhood meeting is to gain an understanding of the project and how it may impact their property. The current process does not provide project details until the second neighborhood meeting, which delays resident understanding and discussion of the development proposal.

The amended meeting content requirements in the Policy reflect current practices in conducting neighborhood meetings which provide for staff education and applicant presentation at the first meeting. The second and subsequent meetings then become an opportunity to focus on issues raised at the first meeting.

The amended Policy allows for alternative formats for third and subsequent meetings to include traditional format meetings, open houses, small group meetings and on-site meetings. These alternative approaches are helpful in tailoring meetings to the particular issues involved with a specific case.

In terms of small group format meetings, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that if a small group format meeting is organized by the Town, then notice should be provided to the entire area and the meeting should be open to all residents, with meeting results posted on the Project Website. The Policy clarifies that the applicant is still able to meet privately with individuals or groups of residents to understand concerns or to resolve issues.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that adjacent residents to a development request be given priority to provide input or ask questions. The Policy provides that the meeting facilitator will ask for a show of hands from adjacent residents who will be given priority, followed by residents of the larger community.

Project Website

The Policy includes the requirement that the Town establish and maintain a Project Website to educate and inform residents of relevant codes, policies, review criteria and the decision process for an application. The Policy requires the following information be provided on the Project Website:
  • Meeting format and time allotted for staff comments, applicant presentation, audience input and questions
  • General Plan designations, Vision Statement and applicable Goals and Policies
  • Zoning classifications and standards including permitted uses, setbacks, building heights, open space and landscaping
  • Reference to review and decision making criteria, including process for a decision
  • Web link to General Plan, Zoning Code and other applicable documents
  • Process steps following the meeting
The Policy requires that this information be written in non-technical terms that are clear and understandable by the general public. The Policy further requires that this information will be referenced at the first neighborhood meeting and an offer made to meet with persons interested in a deeper level of education.

Public Notice

In addition to the mailed notice and sign postings required by the Zoning Code Amendment, the Policy provides additional methods of public notice that the Planning and Zoning Administrator may require as appropriate, including:
  • Computer generated telephone calls to residents
  • Email notifications
  • List-serve or neighborhood website notifications
  • Social media
  • Explorer Newspaper or Vista publication for cases of broader community impact
Meeting Survey (Attachment 3) This survey will be adopted administratively.  Discussion, direction and feedback from Town Council is requested.

In summary, the survey asks residents to rate the neighborhood meeting with regard to the following:
  • Adequacy of meeting room and facilities
  • Meeting was conducted fairly
  • Information was easy to understand 
  • Clear and understandable responses were provided to questions
  • Adequate time was provided to ask questions and voice concerns
The Meeting Survey is intended to garner resident input on the neighborhood meeting process, with the goal of continuous improvement and meeting the needs of residents. The Planning and Zoning Commission provided no comments relative to the Meeting Survey.

Planning and Zoning Commission Study Session and Public Hearing

On November 16, 2015, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a productive study session on the updates, with discussion focused on four areas:

• Enhanced notification methods and approaches
• Enhanced information and education
• Small group meetings
• Support of on-going facilitation training for staff

On December 1, 2015, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a Public Hearing on the updates. Staff presented modified Code and Policy language which incorporated the areas of consensus.

At the conclusion of the Public Hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the Zoning Code amendment (Attachment 1), based on the finding that the amendment reflects current practices and provides for future best practices to be employed for neighborhood meetings. The Planning and Zoning Commission Staff Reports and Draft Minutes are provided as Attachments 6 and 7, respectively.

Public Participation
 
The draft Zoning Code amendment, Policy update and Meeting Survey have been posted on the Town website and available for public comment since September, 2015.  Emails from residents and letters from Metropolitan Pima Alliance and Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association are provided as Attachment 8. 
FISCAL IMPACT:
N/A
SUGGESTED MOTION:
I MOVE to adopt Ordinance No. (O)16-02, providing for a Zoning Code amendment to Section 22.15 and other sections related to neighborhood meetings.

                                                                                            OR

I MOVE to deny Ordinance No. (O)16-02, providing for a Zoning Code amendment to Section 22.15 and other sections related to Neighborhood Meetings, finding that ___________________________.
Attachments
Attachment 1 - (O)16-02 Amending Chapters 22 & 24 of the Zoning Code
Attachment 2 - Standard Operating Policy
Attachment 3 - Meeting Survey
Attachment 4 - 2009 Standard Operating Procedure
Attachment 5 - Notification Radius Examples
Attachment 6 - Planning and Zoning Commission Staff Reports
Attachment 7 - Planning and Zoning Commission Minutes
Attachment 8 - Resident and Industry Comments


    

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