RANCHO PALOS VERDES CITY COUNCIL
ADJOURNED REGULAR JOINT CITY COUNCIL/
PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
OCTOBER 22, 2005
The meeting was called to order at 11:00 A.M. by Mayor Clark at Fred Hesse Community Park, 29301 Hawthorne Boulevard, Rancho Palos Verdes.
Roll call was answered as follows:
PRESENT: Long, Gardiner, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Clark
PRESENT: Karp, Knight, Mueller and Chair Tetreault (Commissioner Perestsam joined the meeting in progress at 11:10 A.M.)
ABSENT: Gerstner, Golida
Also present were City Manager Evans; City Attorney Lynch; Assistant City Manager/ City Clerk Petru; and Director of Planning, Building & Code Enforcement Rojas.
Former Congressman Steve Kuykendall led the Pledge of Allegiance.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA:
Councilman Gardiner moved, seconded by Councilman Stern to approve the Agenda.
Without objection, Mayor Clark so ordered.
Tom Redfield, Rancho Palos Verdes, expressed concern about the timing of the Planning Commission’s upcoming meeting on the Marymount College project and asked the City to shift the meeting date from November to January so that it would not interfere with the upcoming holiday season.
Director Rojas clarified that the upcoming public hearing was a scoping meeting regarding the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
City Attorney Lynch expressed concern about delaying the public hearing process due to the constraints of the Permit Streamlining Act. She clarified for Councilman Gardiner that the timeline required by the Act was triggered when the application was deemed complete. In answer to Mayor Clark’s question, she explained that the City had one year in which to process the EIR and for the Planning Commission to act on the Conditional Use Permit application, although any appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision to City Council would not be subject to the Permit Streamlining Act.
Director Rojas indicated that the City deemed Marymount’s application complete on August 26, 2005. In answer to Mayor Clark’s question Director Rojas explained that the lag time between the date the application was complete and the scheduling of the scoping meeting was due to a need to refine the scope of work and renew the previous contract with the EIR consultant. In response to Councilman Gardiner, he indicated that, while the scoping meeting was not mandatory under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), its purpose was to allow the public the opportunity to identify what issues should be analyzed in the EIR.
Mayor Clark indicated that the EIR would also consider alternatives to the proposed project and referenced an alternative previously proposed by the adjacent neighbors.
Councilman Long stated that he understood the requirements of the Permit Streamlining Act, but asked if it would be possible to start the scoping meeting in December, but then continue it to January in order to accept more public input.
Director Rojas responded that CEQA provides for a 30-day public comment period, but that the City may be able to extend it to 45 days with approval from the state.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz agreed with Councilman Long’s suggestion, but was concerned as to when the project would come before the City Council.
Mayor Clark noted that the project would come to Council only on appeal.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz wanted some assurance that a schedule would be prepared for the project.
Councilman Gardiner concurred with Mayor pro tem Wolowicz’s suggestion, but indicated that he wanted the analysis of the project to include multiple scenarios, including best case, worst case, etc., but all within the context of the legal deadlines.
City Attorney Lynch agreed with the Council’s suggestions and noted that an appeal was highly likely on this project.
Tina Maron, Rancho Palos Verdes, She explained that her property was flooded by an upslope neighbor during the past winter storms and that this neighbor was not required to upgrade the drainage pipe on his property during a remodeling project several years earlier. She expressed concern that the City’s regulations do not require an engineer to review drainage deficiencies on a lot when an addition is proposed that is less than 5,000 square feet in size.
Director Rojas stated that the drainage facilities on the property referenced by Ms. Maron were installed under the County’s jurisdiction and would not be allowed under the current codes. He explained that there was an addition made to the subject property in 1998 that did not trigger a change in the drainage system on the lot and indicated that he would review the situation to determine whether the City needed to enact an ordinance or implement some type of written policy to address this issue.
Mayor Clark disclosed that he had visited Ms. Maron’s property at her invitation. In light of the fact that many property owners were remodeling their homes, he asked if the City’s Code needed to be refined to deal with inadequate drainage systems. He asked staff to review the codes of other cities and determine whether the City should require a licensed civil engineer, in addition to a building inspector, to look at the plans for proposed remodeling projects.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz requested that staff bring back this issue to Council on a date certain to that the City would not lose track of the issue.
Councilman Gardiner voiced his support for the direction given to staff on this issue.
APPROVAL OF THE CONSENT CALENDAR
Repair of the Tarapaca Storm Drain (604 x 1204)
Reviewed and reconfirmed by a four/fifths (4/5) vote, the Council’s previous action on December 21, 2004 to authorize staff to conduct an informal bid process to repair the Tarapaca Storm Drain.
Mayor Clark moved, seconded by Councilman Long to approve the consent calendar. The motion to approve the Consent Calendar, as amended, carried on the following roll call vote:
AYES: Gardiner, Long, Stern, Wolowicz and Mayor Clark
Neighborhood Compatibility Review Findings (1203)
Chair Tetreault provided Council with an introduction to this topic and observed that the concept of neighborhood compatibility is highly subjective.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz noted that several Planning Commission members also serve on the Residential Standards Committee and asked if some of the issues related to neighborhood compatibility were being addressed through this parallel process.
In response, Chair Tetreault highlighted an example of a new home proposed near the intersection of Palos Verdes Drive East and Via Canada that had generated several comments from the community about the fact that the rear façade of the home was more visually obtrusive than the front of the house.
Commissioner Karp noted that, in addition to the home’s massive size, it was painted a very bright color that made it stand out even more in contrast to the other homes in the area. He suggested that the City might want to expand the review of neighborhood compatibility to include a home’s paint color.
Commissioner Mueller indicated that the Planning Commission had considered other projects that were as massive as the home being referenced, but noted that this particular house can be seen from a major arterial roadway. However, he stated that he was opposed to the concept of controlling the color of a house.
Chair Tetreault noted that paint color and exterior building materials were included in the City’s adopted Neighborhood Compatibility Guidelines.
Mayor Clark clarified that these were guidelines, and not part of the City’s Code.
Commissioner Perestam stated that in most cases, the Planning Commission had not encountered any problems, but the home on Via Canada was a unique case because it was highly visible to the general public. He questioned if the definition of "neighborhood" was broad enough to address this type of situation.
Mayor Clark provided a brief history of the committee that developed the Neighborhood Compatibility Code Amendment and the subsequent guidelines. He noted that determining whether a project was compatible with the surrounding neighborhood was an art rather than a science and not applied too stringently. He indicated that it was often difficult to define what constitutes the immediate neighborhood and suggested that it may need to be expanded from the closest 10 homes to the closest 20 homes surrounding a proposed project.
Councilman Stern asked if the Palos Verdes Art Jury reviewed and approved the Via Canada house because it is located in the Miraleste area.
Chair Tetreault responded that the Palos Verdes Art Jury did not review the project because, due to an anomaly in its district boundaries, the property was not within the Art Jury’s jurisdiction.
Councilman Stern asked if the City staff had considered the residence’s rear façade as part of its review of the project.
Director Rojas indicated that staff did consider the rear façade when reviewing the project, but felt that it was really the paint color that made the residence stand out and sparked the public controversy.
Councilman Stern observed that the surrounding neighborhood was eclectic and that it was difficult to determine which of the surrounding homes should be included in the analysis of neighborhood compatibility due to the topography and configuration of the roadway. However, he indicated that paint color should be considered as part of the analysis.
Councilman Gardiner reminded his colleagues that not all the issues associated with the neighborhood compatibility review process had been worked out yet and that it was important to gain more experience and then revisit the standards later on to add refinements to those areas that needed more actual experience to articulate and then craft standards to address these areas.
Mayor Clark stated his understanding that the City’s original Development Code included neighborhood compatibility standards, but were removed in 1979 and then put back in 1989 through Proposition M, although the new standards were rather weak. He noted that development standards for single-family homes built in the 1970’s were very different from the expectations of property owners today.
Councilman Long stated that the neighborhood compatibility standards are a work in progress; that the concept of neighborhood compatibility is very difficult to define; and cited a specific example of a residence in his own neighborhood that he described as the "Medieval Castle." He indicated that he favored creating a color palette for residences that would not be limited to just earth tones. He stated that the apparent bulk and mass of a structure should be considered from all building elevations that are visible to the public, due to the sloping topography of the City. He opined that the most difficult problem was defining the boundaries of the neighborhood that the proposed project will be compared to, particularly in terms of time. He asked if a project is to be compared to the surrounding area as it currently exists, or how it might be in the future.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that, in his opinion, the standards should consider building color, the appearance of all building facades and maximizing lot standards. He also felt that neighborhood trends should also be considered and asked the Planning Commission members if they felt the current guidelines needed to be modified or strengthened.
Councilman Gardiner noted that the problem was that the Planning Commission saw projects on a piecemeal basis, which resulted in gradual but relentless change that was often only apparent after the fact. He questioned if the Planning Commission should be more proactive rather than reactive to the inevitable transition of the City’s housing stock.
Councilman Long stated that in the Via Canada case, the silhouette did not adequately depict what the finished residence was going to look like and indicated that some thought should be given to improving silhouettes to make them more representative of the finished project.
Mayor Clark noted that the City’s 1950’s and 1960’s era housing stock is wearing out and that its characteristics do not fit the needs of today’s families. He indicated that the City has made a first attempt at implementing neighborhood compatibility standards, but the downside of this effort is that it is incremental and reactive. He noted that the Residential Standards Committee is studying at the carrying capacity of the residential lots in the City, which he felt was a useful approach. However, he explained that he did not want to see the Planning Commission become a quasi-Art Jury and characterized a move in this direction as a very slippery slope.
Councilman Long stated that part of the Residential Standards Committee’s goal is to determine what individual neighborhoods are in the process of transitioning into and noted that each individual lot has a maximum carrying capacity, but that there may be other issues to consider in determining neighborhood compatibility. He opined that it was not possible to have homes on every lot that are equal in value to the land they sit on now that property values are over $1 million.
Mayor Clark stated that, in hindsight, concerning the Via Canada project, the City might have wanted to consider requiring vegetation to be planted along the rear façade of the residence to visually screen the property from Palos Verdes Drive East.
Councilman Gardiner stated that the criteria used to define the surrounding neighborhood should be flexible to allow the Planning Commission to define it based on the circumstances of each individual case. He explained that he would prefer that the definition of neighborhood be broad, rather than narrow.
Mayor Clark noted that the guidelines currently defined the surrounding neighborhood as the closest twenty homes.
Councilman Gardiner suggested that this definition might need to be adjusted.
Director Rojas recalled that the house on Via Canada may have been reviewed under the previous standards, which used the closest ten homes.
Mayor Clark asked what standard had been applied to the large residence approved at 2 Yacht Harbor Drive.
Councilman Long noted that the subject property was a very unique situation and really constituted a neighborhood unto itself.
Director Rojas recalled that the home on Via Canada went through the approval process before the neighborhood compatibility guidelines were adopted.
Vice Chair Knight stated that he found the concept of "creeping incrementalism" quite interesting in terms of the size of additions and new homes getting larger over time.
Mayor Clark indicated that the City had considered including a standard that tied the size of an addition to the original size of the residence, but stated that it was taken out because it gave an unfair advantage to home that were originally built larger than others in the same neighborhood.
Councilman Long stated that he would like to see a recommendation to address the issue of carrying capacity other than lot coverage or maximum building square footage.
Vice Chair Knight asked about illegal additions and if they should be considered as part of a neighborhood compatibility review.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she felt the City should not be considering any illegal additions when conducting a neighborhood compatibility analysis.
Mayor Clark indicated that some residents had approached him requesting that the City provide an amnesty program for illegal additions because this can become an issue when a property is sold.
Chair Tetreault expressed his appreciation for Council’s input on this topic.
In wrapping up this topic, Mayor Clark reiterated that Council was looking for input from the Planning Commission on any specific changes or new approaches that would improve the City’s review process of residential projects.
Commissioner Mueller indicated that many of the issues discussed at this workshop would be the subjects of lively discussion at the next Residential Standards Committee meeting.
Cumulative View Impact Finding (1804 x 1203)
Director Rojas provided an overview of the issue of cumulative view impact in conjunction with Height Variation applications and asked for input from Council as to how important potential future view impairment was in the overall view analysis.
Chair Tetreault noted that the issue of cumulative view impact was similar in many ways to the discussion during the previous item on neighborhood compatibility where the City is trying to look into the future and predict what a particular neighborhood was going to look like. He asked for guidance from Council as to whether the first, second or third project where there is a concern about cumulative impact should be approved because the impact is incremental and small, but questioned whether the fourth project should be denied because the impact was too great at that point.
For context, Mayor Clark noted that the finding regarding cumulative view impact was incorporated into the Development Code with the passage of Proposition M, which was a voter initiative and, therefore, could not be changed without another vote of the people.
Councilman Long asked if, rather than gauged over time, the definition of cumulative view impact could be broadened to include situations where one addition did not significantly impair the view of any given property, but instead impacted the views of a number of other homes incrementally.
Councilman Stern referenced a recent case the Council had considered on Lomo Drive where Council was asked to accept the statements from adjacent property owners that they did not plan to add second stories to their homes. He indicated that the City had no mechanism in place, such as a recorded CC&R, to make these types of statements legally binding, and wondered if there was a way to address the potential problem of cumulative view impact in present terms.
Councilman Gardiner indicated that he found Councilman Long’s suggestion of looking at cumulative impact in a different manner fascinating and felt that it merited consideration. Turning back to the current Code standard, he stated that he found the graphic representations of cumulative view impact prepared by staff to not be accurate and thought that they could be overstating the extent of the impact. He indicated that the City needed a truer representation of what the cumulative impact may be and felt that more accurate photographic simulations were needed.
Mayor Clark noted that the determination that a specific project would not cause cumulative view impairment was a mandatory finding required by Proposition M.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz observed that the problem was situational and felt that the City did not have enough legislative history to offer the Planning Commission clear guidance on this issue. He asked Vice Chair Knight if there had been a consensus on a recommendation from the Planning Commission on this issue could best be addressed.
Vice Chair Knight agreed that cumulative view impact was one of the most difficult of the Height Variation findings to make and indicated that the Planning Commission relied heavily on the graphic prepared by staff in making a determination regarding cumulative view impact.
Mayor Clark stated that during his four terms on the Planning Commission he did not recall many Height Variation cases were cumulative view impairment was at issue.
Commissioner Mueller noted that Councilman Long’s definition of cumulative view impairment was not currently part of the Development Code or the Height Variation Guidelines and, therefore, could not currently be considered by the Planning Commission in making its decisions. He expressed concern that there may not be a clear understanding on both the City Council and the Planning Commission as to what cumulative view impairment is exactly. Addressing Councilman Stern’s comment, Mr. Mueller felt that relying on neighbor’s oral or written statements that they did not intend on adding a second story to their homes in the future was legally unenforceable.
Councilman Stern clarified that he felt it could only be enforcement through a CC&R.
Commissioner Mueller agreed that requiring a CC&R was possible, but wondered who would enforce it and noted that CC&Rs were another topic on this meeting’s agenda. He indicated that he always considered "blue water" view when considering whether a project would cause significant and cumulative view impairment and noted that on the graphic "blue water" often does not appear to be that important, but it was quite impressive when actually seen in the field.
Mayor Clark asked for final comments on this topic.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he too was struck by the difference between what he saw during a site visit and what was depicted in the graphics prepared by staff. He suggested that either the decision makers be required to visit the sites or that staff work on improving on the graphics used in making the determination.
Chair Tetreault indicated that the Planning Commission wanted to discuss the issue of cumulative view impairment with Council to try to understand it better. He noted that, as a group, they had wondered whether they should deny second story additions that cause only slight view impairment based on a presumption of what may or may not be built on adjacent properties in the future.
Mayor Clark observed that, based on the discussion from both bodies, it was apparent that the concept of cumulative view impairment was indeed a difficult one to deal with.
RECESS AND RECONVENE:
The joint meeting was recessed at 12:35 pm and reconvened at 12:40 pm.
CC&R’s Deed Restrictions and Private Easements (450 x 1203)
Director Rojas indicated that Commissioner Karp had asked that this item to be discussion with Council.
Commissioner Karp stated that he was concerned that the City was granting approvals for projects that are in violation with the neighborhood’s CC&Rs. He indicated that the staff does not tell applicants to check their CC&Rs before starting a project. He noted that even Home Depot suggested at its do-it-yourself clinics that property owners check their Covenants, Codes and Restrictions (CC&Rs) before installing a prefabricated storage building on your property. He felt that the City should at least do the same. He also asked how he could vote in favor of a request brought before the Planning Commission that he knows to be a violation of that neighborhood’s CC&Rs.
City Attorney Lynch reported that Council has always taken the position that the does not enforce CC&Rs. She noted that there might be situations where a homeowners’ association approves a project that the City would not approve under its Neighborhood Compatibility ordinance, and vice versa. She indicated that it is a policy issue and that Council could change its prior practice. She did not recommend, however, that the City take on the responsibility of notifying property owners to check their CC&Rs before beginning a project, as it could drag the City into disputes between individual homeowners or between a homeowner and their Homeowners Association regarding the enforcement of a private contract to which the City was not a party.
Councilman Stern said that he tended to agree with the City Attorney, but thought that the Planning Department should provide an information sheet for homeowners alerting them to the fact that their property may be subject to CC&Rs. He emphasized that the City did not draft CC&Rs because they are private contracts; that the City should not attempt to interpret CC&Rs; that that CC&Rs should not be politicized; and that enforcing them was not an appropriate use of public funds.
Chair Tetreault agreed that there were legal issues associated with the City getting involved in enforcing CC&Rs and felt that it would be a good policy for the City to stay out of these matters. He did not see any problem, however, with the City informing applicants for new homes or substantial remodels that they must comply with any CC&Rs that apply to their property. He suggested that applicants could be required to submit a certificate attesting to the fact that their project is not in violation of the CC&Rs. He felt that this application would be especially useful in situations were there were CC&Rs governing a property, but no active homeowners’ association to enforce them. He noted that the alternative would be to hire their own attorney and go after the violation themselves.
City Attorney Lynch confirmed that hiring an attorney would be the alternative.
Mayor Clark agreed with Councilman Stern that CC&Rs are private matters, and noted that they have levels of complexity that the City should not get involved with. He cited an example in his own neighborhood where enforcing the CC&Rs required 100% of the properties to be members in the homeowners’ association and currently there are only fifty members in the association.
Councilman Long stated that in situations were the Planning Commission is faced with a project which is acceptable under the City’s Code, but which does not comply with the property’s CC&Rs, the Commission should still approve the project. He stated that he agreed with Councilman Stern that it would be a good idea to have copies of all CC&Rs available at City Hall for review by the public, but in no way should the City make compliance with CC&Rs a requirement to obtain the permit or a formal part of the approval process. He opined that doing so would at least double the City’s litigation budget and would only benefit neighborhoods that had recorded CC&Rs, which comprised less than half of the City’s neighborhoods, to the detriment of those neighborhoods that did not have them.
Commissioner Karp clarified that he was not suggesting that the City take responsibility for enforcing CC&Rs, he just wanted to provide a warning to applicants ahead of time that their properties are subject to them.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she could develop a standard disclaimer to be attached to the City’s permit application forms.
Councilman Long asked City Attorney Lynch about the City providing copies of the CC&Rs for the public.
City Attorney Lynch did not recommend providing copies to the public because of the possibility that a particular set of CC&Rs is changed or repealed and the City gave the public the wrong version of the document, thereby creating a liability issue.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz asked if, when a house is sold, if the buyer was required to sign a document acknowledging that CC&Rs apply to the property.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that Mayor pro tem Wolowicz was correct.
Councilman Long asked if the City cannot provide a copy of the CC&Rs to an applicant, if the City could instead provide the name of the Homeowners’ Association and the contact information to the public.
City Attorney indicated she would prefer the City provide a generic statement advising homeowners to check their title reports for CC&Rs applicable to their property to avoid providing the applicant with incorrect information on this account.
Vice Chair Knight cited a recent case on Rockinghorse Road where there was concern that this particular project would interfere with an easement granted in favor of another property owner and that the City Attorney indicated that the City should not approve the project until this issue was resolved. He suggested that there may be certain circumstances where the City does need to take private agreements into consideration.
City Attorney Lynch responded that the City has always taken the position that private easements are different from CC&Rs and the City should not approve projects that interfere with duly recorded easements.
Mayor Clark called for the next item.
Upcoming Major Development Projects (1203)
Director Rojas stated that Commissioner Mueller had raised a concern that some development projects were being sent directly to Council, and bypassing the Planning Commission. He noted that the Development Code dictates which body reviews a project at a particular stage in the process, and explained that revisions to major projects are reviewed by the last body to act on the project. He stated that this is why the Council reviewed revisions to the major development projects, such as Trump National Golf Course and the Terranea Resort at Long Point. He also indicated that there are several projects scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission in the near future, including Marymount College, a new service station in Golden Cove Shopping Center and a General Plan Amendment in San Ramon Canyon, the senior housing project on Crestridge Road and the casita project at Trump National.
Commissioner Mueller indicated that he had been watching Council recently dealing with the volume and complexity of the revisions to the Trump project, particularly the home sites, and wondered why they were not being reviewed by the Planning Commission instead, especially at a time when the Planning Commission’s agendas had been fairly light. He indicated that he now understood that the last body to act on the project heard all subsequent revisions to it, but now had a different concern. He expressed concern that a number of major projects were on track to come before the Planning Commission and requested that staff develop a schedule to provide a reasonable pacing of the Planning Commission’s workload over the next six to seven month period.
Councilman Long stated that he supported Council project reviews only if they did not materially change the nature of the project, such as the recent changes to the Terranea Resort or the revisions to the Trump National Golf Course. He noted that Council can also refer project to the Planning Commission as appropriate, but did not want to unnecessarily slow down the review process and overburden the Planning Commission’s schedule.
Councilman Gardiner stated that he saw a similarity between the Marymount College project and the earlier version of the Long Point hotel project when the developer was asking to place a portion of the golf course on public land. With the Long Point project, the Planning Commission was seeking guidance from Council on this fundamental land use issue and once given, it was able to move forward with the application in an expeditious manner. He noted that some aspects of the Marymount project may or may not be acceptable to the City. He stated that he would like to find a way for Council to provide the Planning Commission with proactive and early input on the Marymount project so that a lot of time is unnecessary wasted in the review process.
Mayor Clark indicated that the Pre-Screening Workshop would provide such an opportunity for early input from Council.
Director Rojas indicated that the Pre-Screening Workshop for the Marymount College project was scheduled for January 6, 2006.
Councilman Stern indicated that the proposed use of public land allowed the City the legal basis to discuss this aspect of the Long Point project before the application had been through the permit review process. He felt than in the case of the Marymount project, such a review would become a due process issue and welcomed the Pre-Screening Workshop as the best opportunity for the Council members to express their opinions regarding various aspects of the proposed project.
City Attorney Lynch stated that the Pre-Screening Workshop was a valuable tool and provided applicants with non-binding input regarding their project, which they can either accept or reject as they see fit. She cautioned Council and the Planning Commission against providing binding guidance during the workshop, especially given federal protections afforded to religious organizations.
Mayor Clark cited the Covenant Church in the City of Rolling Hills Estates as a case where non-binding input would have been valuable.
Councilman Stern agreed with both Commissioner Mueller and Councilman Long’s comments that major changes to an approved project should be referred back to the Planning Commission.
Mayor Clark indicated that the list of upcoming major projects should include the proposed hotel at the Trump National Golf Course, which he would strongly advocate being reviewed first by the Planning Commission.
Mayor pro tem Wolowicz stated that he felt that too many items came before Council that should be heard by the Planning Commission instead. He agreed that Joint Pre-Screening Workshops were a useful tool for new major development projects. He also supported referring multiple project revisions to the Planning Commission, keeping in mind the time schedules and workloads of both Council and the Planning Commission.
Multiple Project Revisions (1203)
Mayor Clark stated that Mayor pro tem Wolowicz had adequately covered the discussion of Multiple Project Revisions in his last comments regarding Upcoming Major Development Projects and called for the next item on the agenda.
Role of the Planning Commission in Appeals to City Council (1203)
Director Rojas indicated that the City has generally had a Planning Commission representative attend City Council meetings during appeal hearings and noted that the Planning Commission Chair filled this role in recent years. He stated that at the last appeal hearing, the Planning Commission Chair sat at the dais with staff, instead of in the audience as had been the previous practice, and indicated that he felt this arrangement allowed the Chair to interact with Council and was more efficient.
City Attorney Lynch indicated that she had always felt that it was appropriate to have the representative from the Planning Commission present at the Council meeting, but warned against having individual Commissioners lobbying Council for a particular result in the appeal hearing, as it may bias them if the matter was referred back to the Planning Commission for further consideration.
Commissioner Perestam explained that he thought it made it easier for Council to understand the Planning Commission’s decision process when the Chair sat at the dais with staff during the last appeal hearing.
Councilman Stern noted that dissenting opinions are reflected in the excerpt minutes that are included in the public record provided to Council.
Councilman Long stated that, in a perfect world, the excerpt minutes would be enough for Council to understand how the Planning Commission arrived at its decision. He felt, however, that it was helpful to have a representative from the Planning Commission attend the appeal hearing in order to answer questions and explain the basis for the decision, including the majority and minority opinions expressed.
Councilman Gardiner asked if the Commission representative would prejudice themselves if they explained the Planning Commission’s decision-making process.
City Attorney Lynch stated that it would not, provided the Commission representative was not advocating one point of view over another.
Commissioner Mueller indicated that he was comfortable with the process, as staff had suggested it with the Chair or Vice Chair attending the meeting, but indicated that Council should use the official minutes as the first source of information on the Planning Commission’s discussion and decision-making process.
Chair Tetreault indicated that the current process of having the Chair or Vice Chair attend the Council appeal hearing and sit at the dais with staff had worked quite well, as opposed to sitting in the audience were proponents and opponents of the project could lobby them.
Mayor Clark thanked the Planning Commission members on behalf of the entire Council for their volunteer service to the community. He indicated that he admired the talent and dedication on the current Planning Commission members and thought that the joint workshop had produced a useful interchange between Council and the Planning Commission.
Mayor Clark declared the meeting adjourned at 1:21 P.M.
/s/ Stefan Wolowicz
/s/ Carolynn Petru