McMinnville Regional Planning Commission members have undergone four hours of training in a session highlighting the commission process, as well as the dos and don’ts.
Advisor Bill Terry warned members against “ex parte contact” with individuals who will be making a request of the planning commission or the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“Ex parte means ‘on one side only’ or for one party, done for, in behalf of, or on the application of one party only. Simply stated, a contact is ex parte if all parties involved are not properly notified of the contact,” said Terry. “If you are a member of a Board of Zoning Appeals and you know someone who will be coming before you asking for a variance or exception, I caution you against any ex parte contact.”
It is common practice to lobby elected officials for their support, said Terry, but it is not allowed with appointed members of a planning commission or appeals board.
In attendance during the meeting were Regional Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Historic Zoning Commission members Ryan J. Moore, Joey Haston, Tom Ward, Jerry Williamson, Jim Brock, David Marttala, Rachel Killebrew and Steve Harvey. Also in attendance were Mayor Jimmy Haley and McMinnville Planning and Zoning director Nolan Ming.
Terry was questioned by Williamson, “So we can’t talk to people before the meeting?”
“No,” said Terry. “I know you will want to but don’t. Refuse to be obligated to a particular side of any issue prior to a formal meeting of the commission.”
Haston asked if the members could obtain information prior to the meeting from Ming.
“Him, you can talk to,” said Terry.
Terry also informed the group that on-site reviews of a proposed project should be taken by the full commission (not by an individual), and that written information concerning an upcoming action of the commission should be made available to all commission members.
To help members determine if a request for a zoning change or variance should be granted, Terry presented members with several tests to ask in making their decision:
• Is the proposed change in agreement with the general plan?
• Does the change violate the legal purposes of zoning?
• Has it been determined there will be no adverse impact upon adjoining property or that any adverse impact can be justified by the overwhelming public good or welfare?
• Has it been determined that no one property owner or small group of property owners will benefit materially from the change to the detriment of the general public?
• Has it been determined that public services and facilities will not be adversely affected?
“The result of following such a procedure for zoning amendments is all the necessary questions get asked and the proper kind of information is generated so the planning commission can make an informed and rational recommendation,” said Terry. “This is the purpose of planning commission review of amendments, and the commission should not get involved in just the personal interests of the applicant or how the neighbors feel about it.”
Members informed Terry about a recent rezoning request from a local business owner who purchased a property as a financial investment and then asked that it be rezoned from residential to a residential/ commercial use to increase the uses of the property. The request was rejected due to spot zoning.
“You couldn’t do it, even if you wanted to, if it was spot zoning,” said Terry. “Decisions can’t be made based on someone’s financial gain.”