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Village Vision News

Kimmons studies process of ordinances, sees need for changes

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An ordinance is considered the local law. In recent months, applying that law has become a concern for Village Administrator Heather Kimmons. 

“We have to make sure we are following our own ordinances ... our leaders have to enforce and apply our ordinances,” she said. 

Toward that end, she has developed three separate forms called “Findings of Fact” for use by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission members. The forms will facilitate the procedure as members review and decide on recommendations for granting the request of an individual or a business which files a petition for a variance, special use permit or map or text amendment. 

Kimmons’ goal is to make sure that members understand the process and take their time to focus on the various legal criteria and to arrive at a conclusion that is “...well-reasoned and addresses all items set forth in the ordinance.” She supports setting a clear pattern for decision making, but does not endorse changing the ordinance at this time. 

During the Dec. 6 Board meeting, trustee Eric Morr observed that “...the committee (ZBA) was put in an impossible situation” when it was tasked to review a recent variance to a setback ordinance for a homeowner who wants to construct a room addition to his home. 

“The zoning board recommended approval but I balked,” he said. 

The same board earlier denied a similar request from a different neighborhood, according to Morr, who said the Board must take a look at both cases and resolve the conflict. 

“I’m very hesitant to allow variances of setbacks ... if we allow one, why don’t we allow all?” he asked. Trustees tabled the matter that same evening. 

Kimmons said it is imperative for both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission “ give more reasons/opinions to the Board based on the ordinances, not based upon what has been done in the past.” She said as Village administrator she can only move forward and maintain consistency in such decisions by falling back on Village ordinances. 

“It shouldn’t be a guessing game when you file a variance ... trustees need to know there’s been a lot of legwork before it comes to them,” Kimmons said. 

The past practice of having immediate decisions rendered for every petition submitted must be altered, according to Kimmons. 

“Decisions may be made less quickly, but they will be made with greater thought,” she said. She noted that 45 days is the allowable timeframe before a decision is rendered.

Up for future consideration is combining the Plan Commission and ZBA, a decision that rests with trustees. “It’s allowed,” Kimmons said. “I’m not suggesting it happen today, but maybe [we might consider it] long-term.” 

Kimmons noted that such a move would eliminate the issue of getting enough volunteers to ensure that a quorum exists for scheduled meetings. Additionally, she said a smaller group would lend itself to more efficiency, and ensure that all zoning-related issues are considered by a more consistent set of individuals.

“It goes along with the general plan to streamline and to make things more efficient, but I want to develop the justification and operation plan before bringing it back to the Board,” she said.

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