By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer
The Greene County Planning Commission held a working session on Wednesday evening to, among other things, review a possible proffer policy guide submitted by Planning Department staff. If enacted, this would be the first time the county would offer such a guide to citizens and developers seeking rezoning. The Board of Supervisors had directed the planning staff to review “possible proffer policy guidelines to assist citizens in voluntary proffer submittals” that would be designed to work in concert with the capital improvement plan (CIP).
In presenting the proposed guide to commissioners, Planning Director Bart Svoboda suggested the need for “cohesiveness” in the rezoning process and that the use of “boiler plate” guidelines would simplify the process and standardize improvements. Using a fill-in-the-blank-type model, the guide addresses common proffered conditions such as use and density limitations, landscaping, physical improvements, access, funding for improvements to public facilities such as schools, and traffic control/improvements. Only owners of the property subject to rezoning may proffer conditions.
“We’re trying to streamline the process for rezoning and take some of the guess work out of it,” Svoboda said. “We tend to have the same issues come up in rezoning, such as traffic and schools. This guide will let applicants be aware of the issues beforehand so they can be prepared to deal with them as opposed to the applicant being blindsided at a public hearing.”
If an applicant is unprepared or unaware of issues that the requested rezoning may affect, they may request another hearing, which would further delay the process, Svoboda explained. “As a locality, our strength is the speed of our process,” Svoboda said, and these guidelines would assist in moving that process forward more easily and smoothly.
In providing the outline, staff followed the state code requirements regarding proffers and also researched other models online to avoid “reinventing the wheel,” settling on the “Massachusetts model.” The proposed guide states that proffered conditions are not appropriate or necessary for all rezoning, must be voluntary on the part of the applicant, must be consistent with the comprehensive plan, and must be reasonably related to the rezoning.
Acknowledging this is the first time the county would have such a guide, Commissioner Anthony Herring suggested that proffer policies should be reviewed every two to three years.
Svoboda will submit the policy guidelines to various county agencies for their comments and consideration of items that may been missed. It will then be submitted to the supervisors.
The commissioners also began the process of comparing county zoning ordinances with the new comprehensive plan to ensure no conflicts exist. This has been one of the Planning Commission’s top five priorities, and commissioners were particularly interested in the topic of land use. Considering the extensive time involved in reviewing specific ordinances, the commission decided to form a committee specifically to review them.
Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org