Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2003

Loophole saves Lexington Plaza

August 7, 2003

A sign near the Rotary Club recycling bin announcing the coming of Lexington Plaza may not be overly optimistic thanks to a loophole in the city's zoning regulations.
Last July, the De Soto City Council approved a preliminary site plan for a proposed retail building submitted by Tim Fisher. With Ted Morse serving as the point man for Lexington Plaza, the Planning Commission considered the site plan for nearly half a year before approving what was to be the home of Morse's hardware store.
City Engineer Mike Brungardt said he had a conversation with Fisher in the late spring about what needed to happen before a building permit could be obtained for the site. At that time, Brungardt said he explained Fisher needed to get an access easement from adjacent property owners and a final plat approved by the Planning Commission. Fisher was also told the site plan would expire Aug. 13.
There was no follow up on that conversation until July 22, Brungardt said. On that day, Joe Rawie told Brungardt he was now involved in the project and wanted to know what he needed to do to move forward. Based on that conversation, Rawie submitted a letter asking the Planning Commission for an extension of the site plan.
The conversation occurred on the date of the Planning Commission's July meeting, which also happened to be its last before the site plan expired. Because it was too late to get the extension request on the Planning Commission's agenda, Rawie made the request during its public comment period.
Rawie didn't get the extension and left the meeting angry at the cool reception he received from Planning Chairman Kevin Honomichl and Commissioner Roger Templin.
"Two of them were a pain in my side," he said. "They kind of burst my bubble. I was really irritated that the city I live in and I pay taxes in would not even listen to me. They had nothing on the agenda, and they had nothing on their schedule but to talk with me."
Honomichl would have adjourned the meeting without discussing the request if not for Commissioner Danny Hall, Rawie said.
Templin said he, too, wanted to discuss Rawie's request so it could be explained why planning commissioners had little choice but to deny the request for the extension. Zoning regulations state that developers wanting an extension for a one-year site plan need to submit a request showing just cause why such actions should be taken.
"He submitted a letter the day of the meeting stating simply he wanted an extension," Templin said. "I don't know what just cause may mean, but it means more than 'I want an extension.'
"We have regulations for a reason, and the reason we have orderly procedures is to avoid unfairness. If some people were made to follow the regulations and others were not, the process would be perceived as unfair. Our regulations were published and available to any who are interested. It should come as a surprise when they are enforced."
As it turns out, inconsistencies in the city's zoning ordinance pertaining to the duration the one-year length of the site plan may make a Planning Commission extension unnecessary.
City Attorney Patrick Reavey said although the ordinance stated site plans were good for one year, it also had language stating that site plans more than a year old must conform to zoning ordinances adopted since their approval.
Reavey said he would prepare a text amendment for the City Council making it clear site plans were good only for one year. But he said Lexington Plaza would probably benefit from the existing language.
"This particular project will get the benefit of the doubt," he said. "They can proceed with getting final plat approved."
That development suited both Rawie and Templin, who said he would like to see the project move forward and didn't relish reviewing the site plan once again.
Rawie, who praised the cooperation of city staff, said he would rather do a similar project elsewhere rather than start from scratch with the Planning Commission. If that could be avoided, he said he was ready to move forward.
"I've been involved with it for about six weeks and I've basically got my ducks in a row," he said. "I've got an easement that I've acquired; a couple of small issues I have to be addressed."

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