The Council Development Approval Process Review (DAPR) Committee will present a significant proposal in Tuesday’s Work Meeting to streamline and strengthen the land use agenda noticing process. The proposal would shave two to four weeks off the time to move an item from the Planning Commission to the Council, through simultaneous noticing, while at the same time offering a more robust process for making non-routine land use decisions – by considering the item at two successive public Council meetings. If the Council approves on Tuesday, staff will be asked to prepare draft ordinance changes to send to the Planning Commission for their review and recommendation. The DAPR Committee consists of Council members Dave Sewell (chair), Dave Harding, and Dave Knecht, and representatives of Community Development, Public Works, Economic Development, the RDA, and Wayne Parker.
Here are the details of the proposal.
Current Code and Practice
Code Requirements: Utah Code requires that notice of the first public hearing for General Plan amendments (10-9a-204) and for land use ordinance changes (10-9a-205) be given at least 10 days in advance, whereas notice of any subsequent public meetings requires only 24 hours. For General Plan amendments, City Code 15.17.030 requires 10 day notice for public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Council. City Code 14.02.010 requires 14 day notice for any public hearing that is required by Title 14, whether it be before the Planning Commission, the Council, or the Board of Adjustment. This has traditionally been interpreted to mean that 14 day notice should be provided for Council meetings where a land use ordinance is to be considered – though our Council attorney has advised that a careful reading indicates this is not actually required.
Current Practice: The Planning Commission and Council have been noticing their land use agenda items separately. The Council waits for the Planning Commission Report of Action and then simultaneously places the item on the next available Work Meeting agenda (3 weeks after Planning Commission) and on the agenda for the following Council meeting (5 weeks after Planning Commission).
Simultaneous Noticing: The noticing period for Council land use agenda items can be increased while at the same time decreasing the delay between Planning Commission and Council consideration on those items – by noticing the item for both meetings simultaneously. The item would be scheduled for the next available Council meeting following the Planning Commission meeting. The Council meeting would be noticed in the same materials and media as the Planning Commission meeting. In rare cases where a Council item later needed to be postponed, it would be shown on the agenda as being continued.
Two Public Meetings for Non-Routine Items: Routine, non-controversial items with unanimous Council support could be decided at the first public Council meeting. Other items would be decided at the next public Council meeting – giving the Council time to reflect on the first round of public input before the pressure is on to make a decision. This approach is similar to that of many state legislatures (including Utah) that require multiple bill “readings” on different days before a final vote is taken.
Work Meeting Presentation Optional: A Work Meeting presentation would become optional, when requested by the chair or by two Council members, on the date of either or both of the public meetings. These would likely be reserved for complex items requiring lots of information to be presented. For simpler items where no Work Meeting presentation had been requested, staff would present the same information at the first public meeting as is now presented at Work Meeting.
Council Legal Review Before Planning Commission: Community Development will submit drafts of any proposed ordinance or ordinance amendment to the Council attorney for legal review one week before the relevant Planning Commission meeting. This will allow the Planning Commission to base their recommendation on a draft that has already been reviewed by Council legal staff.
First Meeting Decisions: Action could be taken at the first public meeting only under the following conditions. First, the Planning Commission Report of Action must have been published by 6:00 PM on the prior Thursday – so that Council members had ample opportunity to read it. Second, any ordinance draft must have been reviewed by the Council attorney and published by that same deadline. Third, the Council could act at the first meeting only by unanimous consent. If any Council member requested the second meeting, action could not be taken at the first meeting.
Match State Code: City Code would be changed to match State Code on noticing requirements for the Planning Commission public hearing on land use items. That would change the requirement from 14 days to 10 – like the Code change already passed by the Council for General Plan amendments. Adoption of simultaneous noticing would also remove from City Code the potentially ambiguous language regarding the notice required for Council consideration of land use items. [Note that if simultaneous noticing is not adopted, it is still recommended that the Council amend 14.02.010 and consider what constitutes reasonable notice, ranging from the 24 hours required by state code to the 14 days used in the past.]
Faster: The proposed process will shave several weeks from the typical time to go from Planning Commission to Council decision. Many routine, non-controversial items that can be passed unanimously will be decided one week after Planning Commission – 4 weeks faster than is typical now. Other items requiring two Council meetings will still be decided two weeks faster than current practice.
Better and More Predictable Noticing: Because of the simultaneous noticing, the public will get more advanced notice of Council meetings pertaining to an item. There will be at least 16 day notice for the first Council public meeting – a minimum of 10 day notice for the Planning Commission hearing plus at least 6 days until the next available Council meeting. Planning Commission noticing is more thorough than current Council noticing due to Code requirements to notify affected property owners. Piggybacking Council noticing with Planning Commission noticing will therefore reach more people interested in attending the Council meetings. Furthermore, the Planning Commission meeting will come to be seen as the first step in an efficient and predictable land use decision process. The simultaneous noticing is therefore likely to stimulate increased public interest in attending Planning Commission also.
More Robust for Controversial Items: The public gets two chances to comment on controversial items and the Council gets time in between to consider input from the first meeting. There will be no more pressure for the Council to make a big land use decision on the first night. However, this proposal leaves the door open for routine items that can be decided unanimously to still be handled at the first meeting – thereby investing the extra time only on items that would benefit from it the most.