Planning commission seeks zoning ordinance overhaul

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman stated the town code deals with enforcement but it is under the purview of council
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CAVE CREEK – When the site plan review for McDonald’s Phase 2 at 52nd Street and Carefree Highway was continued to the Jan. 15 planning commission meeting, the only other item on the Nov. 5 agenda was discussion of the zoning ordinance and possible direction to staff to prepare amendments to various sections to place on future agendas for the commission to review.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell announced there were three cases scheduled for November and none for December.

The meeting was set up as workshop with commissioners sitting at tables facing each other rather than on the dais.

Chairman Ted Bryda stated the item, discussion of the zoning ordinance, will appear on all future meeting agendas.

david smithCommissioner David Smith (r) said there were proposals made back in 2009 via the “White Paper” to make changes to the ordinance in order to streamline the development process.

Smith stated definitions in the ordinance were extremely vague.

He said he could generally understand what the terms meant but not specifically, stating it lacked definitions for words such as “significant,” “major” and “minor.”

Smith said the definitions need to be easy to understand and not excessively “interpretable.”

Bryda said the town needed to start using words such as “will,” “shall” and “may” to get rid of the ambiguity.

Commissioner Bob Voris stated they needed an element that involves the public.

With Ray Fontaine absent, the commission voted in favor of having staff bringing back amendments to the definitions for review.

Commissioner Elaine Wright provided the commission with handouts with proposed amendments to the Home Occupation ordinance.

She went into detail about the auto repair business on Fleming Springs Road, including photographs, stating it “shows how far this home occupation thing went off base.”

Wright said her recommendations would give staff something it could use to uphold the ordinance.

Commissioner Dan Baxley asked if staff felt a need to revise the home occupation ordinance.

Cordwell said 99 percent of the time the ordinances are followed and didn’t know how the town could catch every violation, although he stated they could certainly “tighten them up.”

Smith stated the compliance section has no teeth and said it would be useful to have a compliance section with penalties for violations spelled out.

Cordwell stated compliance was addressed in the town code.

Bryda stated they would need to get direction from the mayor and council in order to discuss changes to the town code, which is under council’s sole jurisdiction.

Commissioner Rae Iverson suggested a joint workshop with council.

Voris asked if council oversees enforcement, why the commission was getting involved.

Cordwell said the commission is involved in crafting ordinances.

Baxley said he shared Voris’ concerns.

Smith said he wasn’t talking about being intrusive but just thought they should give staff the tools it needed to do their job.

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman stated the town code deals with enforcement but it is under the purview of council.

Voris noted there is specificity in the zoning ordinance but the penalties are monetary, whereas, so long as someone is willing to pay a fine, the non-compliance just goes on and on and on.

He said sanctions are in the town code, over which the commission has no jurisdiction.

Baxley said Voris made an interesting comment about intrusion and stated he didn’t want to live someplace with excessive government intrusion.

Voris stated the landscaping requirements and restrictions were an overreach of government authority, which he called an unnecessary intrusion that infringes too deeply on private property rights.

He moved to ask staff to look into those types of issues throughout the zoning ordinance.

Iverson said she took exception to his comment and stated zoning doesn’t negatively impact but rather defines property rights.

Voris said he wasn’t suggesting the ordinance be jettisoned but stated it didn’t even address whether a prohibited plant is in the ground or in a pot.

Iverson told Voris he was offering an opinion that is not appropriate for this town.

Kautzman restated Voris’ motion, which was to direct staff to look into ordinances that are overreaches.

The motion passed by a divided commission.

Iverson stated the planning commission and staff “don’t just deal with the here and now. They need to be visionaries.”

Smith said the reason he didn’t vote in favor of the motion was because it puts a subjective load on staff when they’re supposed to be objective.

During public comment, retired architect Fred Osmon said he made some suggestions several meetings ago about the sign ordinance and suggested some sort of committee be formed to review it and make recommendations.

Osmon also stated the residential code seems to be well thought out while the commercial code is just the opposite.

He said it’s not a matter of what you can do, but a matter of what you can’t do.

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