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GUEST COMMENTARY: Zoning commissioner clarifies stance

I am on the city Planning and Zoning Commission, but this letter is my personal comment and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the commission.

First, I want to say I am not against the jail or its tower and am not pushing to overturn any decisions that have been made, but I do want to clarify some issues.

The county was issued a conditional use permit for a law enforcement facility and then, when it came time to construct the radio tower, the question came up as to what was needed to allow it, if anything.

The normal procedure to construct a tower is like anything else: apply for a building permit. I don’t think an actual permit was applied for.

At this point in the process it was determined that the tower they needed would require a special permit. It was put on the planning commission agenda at a late date as new business, not a formal request. (A formal request requires publication in the newspaper 20 days prior to a public hearing.)

I researched the subject of towers and, in my opinion, it seemed it would require a conditional use permit, but I also felt that it would not fit any of the tower specifications as included in the conditional use permit section of the regulations.

The commission has limited authority to approve deviations from the regulations, and thus I felt it would be better handled by the Board of Zoning Appeals, which has some authority to do that.

At that particular Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, I was acting chair and opened my comments with the statement that I might speed up the process. I explained where the tower did not meet the requirements, that the commission had limited ability to deviate, and that it would probably not qualify for a conditional use permit.

I then said that the process might be shortened by 30 days or more if the request was taken directly to the Board of Zoning Appeals as a variance request.

This was not a formal hearing on the subject, and no formal actions were taken. Apparently it was determined it could be handled this way, and a formal variance request for the tower was filed with the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The next thing I hear is that the city administrator had discussed the tower with the city/county planning and zoning consultant and the city/county attorney.

The consultant advised that, in his opinion, the tower was an accessory item associated with the law enforcement facility and that, by administrative decision, it could be considered covered by the original conditional use permit for the facility.

In the city administrator’s letter to the county commissioners, he states he made an administrative decision to “amend” the original conditional use permit to include the tower and it was thereby approved.

He also said there would be no further action needed; however, the decision was subject to a 30-day appeal period ending Aug. 15.

At a city council meeting on the tower, objections were voiced that this decision did not follow state statute guidelines. As I understand state statutes and our regulations, a request to amend a conditional use permit must follow the same procedure as the original request, which requires a notice be published for a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission. This step was bypassed.

As reported in a [Hillsboro Free Press] account of the July 31 County Commission meeting, some inaccurate statements were made [by County Commissioner Dan Holub].

The county never applied to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a conditional use permit for the tower. It applied to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance to allow for the tower, as recommended.

I and another person were described as demonstrating “how well they knew their books, page and paragraph” and that “they couldn’t help us”.

Yes, at this informal discussion of the tower, I quoted the regulations in an attempt to get understanding of what we all were up against, but I felt I was helping them by suggesting going to the Board of Zoning Appeals and saving up to 30 days in the process.

Then, as stated in the article, we were accused of “whining because we were bypassed.” Yes, we complained, but the complaint was that the decision as written appears to have violated state statutes — not because a way had been found that appears to allow the tower to be included in the original conditional use permit, even though it was not specifically identified in the original request.

In my opinion, the city adopted the planning and zoning regulations and created the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals for a reason.

Regardless of whether I am considered a know-it-all or a whiner, as long as I am on the commission I will push to follow the regulations.

Paul White
Marion

Last modified Aug. 16, 2012

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