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The Basics of Plan Commissions and BZAs

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Title: The Basics of Plan Commissions and BZAs


1
The Basics ofPlan Commissions and BZAs
  • Quarterly Land Use Update
  • January 25, 2006

2
Welcome to the Program
  • Mark Spelbring, Extension Educator, Parke County
    Plan Commission Member
  • KK Gerhart-Fritz, AICP
  • The Planning Workshop
  • Video Credit Greg Dale

3
Video Seminar Series Sponsors
  • Purdue Cooperative Extension Service Land Use
    Team
  • Indiana Planning Association
  • Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.
  • Ball State University, College of Architecture
    and Planning

4
Seminar Series Endorsed by
  • Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
  • Association of Indiana Counties
  • Indiana Rural Development Council
  • Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors

5
What is Planning?
  • A plan for getting from the present to the
    desired future
  • Deciding in advance, what to do, how to do it,
    and especially where to do it
  • Community decisions about where things should be
    located, instead of everything being decided
    individually

6
Grocery List Plan Example
  • Plan party together, decide what is needed
  • Send 3 people to the market for 10 items
  • A tell him what to get
  • B give him a written list
  • C give him a list, but send him hungry
  • Who will get back with the right stuff?
  • Communities with a plan might get there!

7
What is Zoning?
  • A tool to implement your plan
  • Zoning with no plan makes no sense, since it is a
    tool to implement the plan
  • Zoning comes from Police Powers of government,
    and protects all citizens by limiting what
    citizens can do with land
  • Powers are limited to public purposes

8
Planning and Zoning
  • Planning and Zoning are optional for local
    governments, but if adopted they must be done
    according to state regulations
  • Indiana code sets out requirements
  • IC 36-7-4-xxx
  • Note dont fear the code anyone can read and
    understand most of it!

9
Who are the Players?
  • Legislative Bodies
  • County Commissioners
  • City/Town Councils
  • Fiscal Bodies
  • Planning Director and/or Staff
  • Plan Commission
  • Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA)

10
Legislative Bodies
  • Role Law Making
  • Power to adopt Comprehensive Plan
  • Power to adopt Zoning Ordinance
  • Power to adopt Subdivision Regulations
  • Power to amend ordinances maps
  • Appoint members and may be one member of Plan
    Commission
  • Appoint members of BZA

11
Fiscal Bodies
  • Role Financial Support
  • Appropriate funds for operation
  • County Council
  • City/Town Council
  • May appoint members and may be one member of Plan
    Commission
  • May appoint member of BZA

12
Planning Director and/or Staff
  • Role Administration of the Law
  • Administers zoning ordinance
  • Interprets zoning ordinance
  • Keep records and maps
  • Staff for Plan Commission and BZA
  • Appointment depends upon law

13
Plan Commission
  • Role Advisory and Law Administration
  • Prepare Comprehensive Plan
  • Prepare Zoning Ordinance
  • Prepare Subdivision Ordinance
  • Approve/Deny Subdivisions
  • Make Recommendations on Proposed Changes to Zone
    Maps, Ordinance Text, and Comprehensive Plan

14
Board of Zoning Appeals - BZA
  • Role Quasi Judicial
  • Hear Appeals of Administrative Decisions
  • Approve/Deny Special Exceptions
  • Approve/Deny Contingent/Conditional Use
  • Approve/Deny Variances
  • Variance of Standards/Use Variance

15
Confused Yet?
  • Many players on planning zoning teams
  • All are public officials
  • Each has a job to do
  • Each should only do their own job
  • Teamwork is critical to success
  • Public debate strengthens government
  • Public bickering will destroy public trust

16
Learn the Language
  • Ag District, Comprehensive Plan, Eminent Domain,
    Non-Conforming Use, Petitioner, Remonstrator,
    Special Exception, Takings, Urban Growth
    Boundary, Variance
  • Reference Purdue Extension Publication ID-228,
    The ABCs of P Z A Planning Zoning Glossary
  • http//www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/agecon.htm30

17
Focus on Plan Commissions
  • What were you told when asked to serve?
  • It will be fun and wont take much time
  • You may get to stay up all night
  • You will win friends and influence people
  • You wont be sued very often
  • You will have a chance to serve and make a
    difference in the future of our community
  • Its a great place to start a political career

18
Plan Commission Main Types
  • Advisory Plan Commission
  • County
  • City or Town
  • Area Plan Commission
  • Must include county and at least one municipality
  • Includes rural and urban representation
  • Metropolitan

19
What is the Plan Commission?
  • Independent commission
  • Mainly private citizens
  • Appointed by elected officials
  • No legislative authority
  • Little administrative authority
  • Advisor to governing body
  • Note elected officials have final authority

20
How Does Plan Comm. Work?
  • Part of local government
  • Behave as public officials
  • Reference Purdue Extension Publication ID-235,
    What is the Plan Commission and How Does it
    Work?
  • Nitty Gritty Training Programs
  • IPA Publications and Conferences

21
Lets Go To The Videotape
  • Greg Dale presented information on Land Use
    Update, September 3, 2003, called Ethical and
    Defensible Decision Making
  • This videotape can be obtained from members of
    Purdue Land Use Team
  • We will just show part of it to let you see
    whats available

22
Discussion Question
  • How is your plan commission doing on the points
    Greg Dale made in the videotape?
  • Discuss at each site when we take our break in
    just a few minutes

23
Plan Commission Review 1
  • Open Door Law
  • Chance meetings
  • Site visits
  • Public meetings vs. public hearings
  • Formalize public hearing time
  • Reference Purdue Extension Publication ID-232,
    Plan Commission Public Hearings A Plan
    Commissioners Guide

24
Plan Commission Review 2
  • Motions taking official action
  • Positive motions
  • Approved motions
  • Defeated motions
  • Majority vote of full board
  • Choices for recommendations approval, denial,
    or make no recommendation

25
Plan Commission Review 3
  • For a petition to change zoning, which motion
    would you prefer?
  • Motion to deny
  • Motion to recommend denial
  • Motion to recommend denial because he is from out
    or town and we dont know him
  • Motion to recommend denial because the petitioner
    failed to show how increased traffic will not
    create a pedestrian hazard

26
Plan Commission Review 4
  • Consensus on procedural items
  • Voting processes
  • Secret ballot not really
  • Paper ballot with decisions announced
  • Roll call change order of voting
  • Voice vote with split decisions followed up with
    roll call vote

27
Plan Commission Review 5
  • Rules of Procedure or By-Laws
  • Get to know yours!
  • Should spell out many details
  • Attendance of members
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Ex parte communication
  • Behavior of all participants

28
Plan Commission Review 6
  • You must live by your ordinance
  • BUT You can propose changes!
  • Amendments are not that hard to do
  • Be responsive to changing conditions
  • Questions?

29
BREAK TIME 5 MINUTES
  • Questions/Answers will follow next presentation,
    so keep them handy
  • Dont forget your evaluation
  • Suggestions are welcome!

30
AFTER THE BREAK
  • More sources of information
  • Boards of Zoning Appeals
  • KK Gerhart-Fritz, AICP
  • The Planning Workshop

31
Citizen Training
  • 2006 Land Use Update -- Video Seminar Series
  • K.K. Gerhart-Fritz, AICP
  • January 25, 2006

32
Need Help But Dont Know Where to Turn?
  • An offer you cant refuse Indiana Planning
    Associations Citizen Planner Training Manual
  • FREE
  • DO IT YOURSELF (NO TRAINER)
  • DO IT WHEN YOU WANT
  • NO NEED TO TRAVEL
  • Whats Not to Like?

33
Indiana Planning Associations Citizen Planner
Training Manual
  • 1 Plan Commission Basics
  • 2 BZA Basics
  • 4 Communications
  • 5 Rules of Procedure
  • 6 Ethics
  • 7 Comprehensive Plans
  • 8 Zoning Ordinance
  • 9 Subdivision Control Ordinance
  • 10 Site Plan Review

34
Indiana Planning Associations Citizen Planner
Training Manual
  • www.indianaplanning.org/citizen
  • Chapter 3, avoiding pitfalls, coming soon

35
BZA Basics
  • 2006 Land Use Update -- Video Seminar Series
  • K.K. Gerhart-Fritz, AICP
  • January 25, 2006

36
Disclaimers
  • See IC 36-7-4-918.6 for counties with populations
    of 400,001 - 699,999 or 200,001 - 299,999
  • Metropolitan Development Commissions have
    additional regulations related to the BZA. See
    IC 36-7-4-918.8

37
Test your BZA Knowledge
  • The Board of Zoning Appeals is a quasi-judicial
    body, meaning
  • a) they have to wear long black robes at the
    meetings
  • b) the board's actions are similar to those
    conducted by courts
  • c) every new member gets a gavel, and they can
    fix traffic tickets

38
BZA Powers and Duties
  • BZA has 3 duties
  • 1) Hear variance requests
  • Developmental standards variances
  • Variances of use (not available to area plan
    commissions)
  • 2) Hear special exception /conditional use
    requests
  • 3) Hear appeals from administrative decisions

39
Rules for VARIANCES
  • 1 -- A variance is not automatically a bad
    thing! It is a way a community can solve
    problems created by applying the generalities of
    the zoning ordinance to specific situations -- it
    introduces some needed flexibility to zoning
    regulations.

40
Rules for VARIANCES
  • 2 -- Caution Variances are meant to be a
    safety valve, but may become a "back-door" way of
    thwarting the zoning ordinance.
  • Example Asking for a variance to allow more
    density in a residential zoning district, instead
    of asking for the property to be rezoned to a
    district with a higher density.

41
Rules for VARIANCES
  • 3 -- It is the applicant's responsibility to
    prove the request satisfies all the variance
    criteria it is not the responsibility of the
    board of zoning appeals to make the case for
    them!
  • You should require that the applicant submit
    written evidence that they meet all the criteria.

42
Rules for VARIANCES
  • 4 -- While there is no maximum number of
    conditions that can be attached to a variance
    approval, if there are a great number, you may
    want to reexamine whether the proposed variance
    is really justified.

43
Rules for VARIANCES
  • 5 -- Your job will be easier for you (and the
    applicant and the neighbors) if everyone
    understands what you must legally base your
    decision on -- read a brief explanation at the
    hearing and post a big sheet listing the criteria
    in the hearing room.

44
Are you Tough Enough?
  • The BZA can not legally decide their requests
    based on compassion, only on whether the state
    law variance criteria are met.
  • This does not mean that a BZA member should be
    cold, mean or rude with an applicant, just that
    your compassion should not guide your decision.

45
Developmental Standards Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.5
  • (1) the approval will not be injurious to the
    public health, safety, morals, and general
    welfare of the community
  • Consider whether granting the variance will hurt
    or potentially cause harm to your community --
    why or why not, and what harm can befall it?

46
Developmental Standards Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.5
  • (2) the use and value of the area adjacent to the
    property included in the variance will not be
    affected in a substantially adverse manner
  • Consider whether neighboring property will
    suffer any major negative impacts -- what impacts
    can the neighbors realistically expect?

47
Developmental Standards Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.5
  • (3) the strict application of the terms of the
    zoning ordinance will result in practical
    difficulties in the use of the property
  • Consider what difficulties the owner would have
    developing the property according to the
    ordinance standards -- higher cost is not a
    practical difficulty

48
What is a Practical Difficulty?
  • Consider defining in your rules -- Monroe
    County's BZA Significant economic injury that
  • (A) Arises from strict application of the Zoning
    Ordinance to the conditions of a particular,
    existing parcel of property
  • (B) Is not as significant as the injury
    associated with hardship (it does not deprive the
    parcel owner of all reasonable economic use of
    the parcel)
  • (C) Is clearly more significant than compliance
    cost.

49
Adding Extra Criteria for Developmental Standards
Variances
  • Indiana Code says your local ordinance may
    establish a stricter standard than the "practical
    difficulties" standard
  • The variance granted is the minimum necessary.
  • The variance granted does not correct a hardship
    caused by an owner, previous or present, of the
    property.

50
Use Variance Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.4
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • (1) the approval will not be injurious to the
    public health, safety, morals, and general
    welfare of the community
  • This is same criterion used for developmental
    standards variances
  • Consider whether granting the variance will hurt
    or potentially cause harm to the city or county
    -- why or why not, and what harm can befall them?

51
Use Variance Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.4
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • (2) the use and value of the area adjacent to the
    property included in the variance will not be
    affected in a substantially adverse manner
  • This is same criterion used for developmental
    standards variances
  • Consider whether neighboring property will suffer
    any major negative impacts -- what impacts can
    the neighbors realistically expect?

52
Use Variance Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.4
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • (3) the need for the variance arises from some
    condition peculiar to the property involved
  • Consider whether there is some unique problem
    with the site that makes it unable to meet
    ordinance standards -- what is it?

53
Use Variance Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.4
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • (4) the strict application of the terms of the
    zoning ordinance will constitute an unnecessary
    hardship if applied to the property for which the
    variance is sought
  • Consider what it would be like if the site were
    developed under the terms of the zoning ordinance
    -- what would the difficulties be?

54
What is an "unnecessary hardship"?
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • Consider defining in your rules -- according to
    Monroe County
  • Significant economic injury that
  • (A) Arises from the strict application of this
    ordinance to the conditions of a particular,
    existing parcel of property
  • (B) Effectively deprived the parcel owner of all
    reasonable economic use of the parcel and
  • (C) Is clearly more significant than compliance
    cost or practical difficulties.

55
Use Variance Criteria IC 36-7-4-918.4
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • (5) the approval doesn't interfere substantially
    with the adopted comprehensive plan
  • Consider whether there are any major conflicts
    with the comprehensive plan -- what are they?

56
Adding Extra Criteria for Use Variances
DANGER -- Not for Area Plan Commissions
  • Indiana Code does not allow your local ordinance
    to establish any additional standards

57
Test your BZA Knowledge
When can you approve a variance?
  • a) when the board determines it meets the "no
    harm-no foul" test
  • b) when it meets all of the variance criteria
  • c) when no one speaks against it

58
Test your BZA Knowledge
When can you deny a variance?
  • a) when you don't have a quorum
  • b) if the applicant is a jerk
  • c) if all variance criteria haven't been met

59
What is a Special Exception?
  • AKA a special use, conditional use or contingent
    use
  • No definition in Indiana Code, but it is
    generally understood to be a use of property that
    is allowed by a zoning ordinance under specified
    conditions -- something that needs to be
    considered on a site specific basis.

60
What can be a Special Exception?
  • Indiana Code leaves it up to local government to
    define what uses in what zoning districts should
    be special exceptions
  • Common examples include institutional uses (i.e.,
    schools and churches), drive-through businesses,
    etc.

61
Special Exception Criteria
  • Indiana Code does not specify criteria for
    special exceptions, leaving it to the discretion
    of local government.
  • Some communities use a general set of criteria
    for most, if not all, special exceptions, while
    others establish a separate set of criteria for
    each special exception use.

62
Rules for SPECIAL EXCEPTIONS
  • 1 -- Your community needs to codify special
    exception criteria -- the better your criteria,
    the easier your decision will be

63
Rules for SPECIAL EXCEPTIONS
  • 2 -- One set of rules may not fit every special
    exception.

64
Sample Special Exception Criteria
  • 1. Safe vehicular and pedestrian access,
    including emergency vehicles
  • 2. Adequate off street parking
  • 3. Refuse and service areas are provided
  • 4. All utilities necessary for this use are
    available
  • 5. Screening and buffering are appropriate

65
Sample Special Exception Considerations
  • 6. Proposed signs and exterior lighting dont
    cause safety problems (glare,etc.) and are
    compatible with other properties
  • 7. The proposed use complies with minimum
    setbacks and other open space requirements
  • 8. The proposed use is in harmony with the
    neighborhood, will not cause undue noise,
    traffic, odors, safety, or environmental hazards,
    and does not have an adverse effect on
    neighboring property.

66
Appeals From Administrative Decisions IC
36-7-4-918.1
  • BZA reviews appeals from
  • an official, hearing officer, or staff under the
    zoning ordinance
  • a board or other body (except a plan commission)
    in relation to the enforcement of the zoning
    ordinance or
  • a board or other body (except a plan commission)
    in relation to the enforcement of an ordinance
    adopted under this chapter requiring the
    procurement of an improvement location or
    occupancy permit.

67
Rule for APPEALS
  • 1 -- Hearing an occasional appeal is not a bad
    thing -- it forces you to re-examine some of the
    gray areas

68
Appeals From Administrative Decisions
  • The BZA may reverse, affirm, or modify the order,
    requirement, decision, or determination being
    appealed.
  • For this purpose, Indiana Code gives the BZA all
    the powers of the official, officer, board, or
    body from which the appeal is taken.

69
BZA Contact
  • Planning staff may file a staff report with the
    BZA relating to the case
  • No one else may contact any BZA member before the
    hearing with intent to influence the member's
    action.

70
Required Rules of Procedure IC 36-7-4-916
  • 1) filing of appeals
  • 2) application
  • 3) notice
  • 4) conduct of hearings and
  • 5) whether a variance is for use or development
    standards

71
Findings of Fact IC 36-7-4-915
  • In addition to minutes, all BZA actions require
    the preparation of FINDINGS OF FACT to support
    that decision.

72
Findings of Fact
  • It is not enough to make the required statutory
    determinations in the words of the ordinance
    (e.g., stating, "the approval will not be
    injurious to the public health, safety, morals,
    and general welfare of the community")
  • Carlton v. BZA of City of Indianapolis, 1969,
    245 NE2d 337, 252 Ind. 56)

73
Findings of Fact
  • The BZA must add a "because" to each of the
    criterion, with a corresponding explanation
  • Trial courts are to remand appeals of BZA
    decisions back to the BZA to make findings if the
    BZA has not previously done so
  • Habig v. Harker, App. 1 Dist.1983, 447 NE2d 1114

74
Findings of Fact
  • Indiana case law has held that it was acceptable
    for BZA to take over 3 months to adopt findings
    of fact after the hearing and decision
  • McBride v. BZA of Evansville-Vanderburgh Area
    Plan Commission, App. 1 Dist.1991, 579 NE2d 1312

75
Findings of Fact
  • While this delay may have been acceptable to the
    court, the BZA should stay current. This can be
    done by either adopting findings
  • as part of the motion on the case (either
    prepared by staff in advance to support the staff
    recommendation or proposed by a BZA member with
    the motion, using a self-prepared worksheet or
    petitioner's written application to cite the
    findings), or
  • at the next BZA meeting, which have been prepared
    in the interim by planning staff, the BZA's legal
    counsel or a board member.

76
Alternate MembersIC 36-7-4-909
  • If a BZA member has a direct or indirect
    financial interest, Indiana code allows an
    alternate member to participate in that hearing
    or decision in place of the regular member.

77
RULES for Alternate Members
  • 1 -- Make appointments in advance and outline
    the process for alternates in the BZA's rules.

78
Are you Working too Much?
  • Is there a waiting list to get on a BZA agenda?
  • Do your BZA meetings last until the wee hours of
    the next morning?
  • Are you scheduling special BZA meetings just to
    accommodate petitions?

79
BZA Solutions
  • If you answered YES!, your BZA could probably
    benefit from one or both of the following
    actions
  • Amend the Zoning Ordinance to reflect frequently
    granted variances
  • Appointing a Hearing Officer to hear cases

80
What is a Hearing Officer?
  • An appointed staff member, board member, or
    attorney who can conduct hearings on certain
    cases and approve or deny them.
  • The hearing officer acts in place of the Board of
    Zoning Appeals.

81
Hearing Officers
  • This works best on "routine" cases where there is
    little public opposition or no need to burden the
    petitioner or BZA with the full process.

82
Hearing Officer Benefits
  • Reduce the regular caseload of the BZA by
    removing minor, non-controversial cases
  • Minor cases can be processed through the system
    much more quickly than if they went to the BZA
  • Informal setting is more comfortable and
    user-friendly for petitioners

83
Implementing the Hearing Officer Process
  • Subject to Indiana Statutes IC 36-7-4-923 and
    924
  • Adopt an amendment to the zoning ordinance which
    enables the Hearing Officer process
  • Adopt an amendment to the Plan Commission/ BZA
    rules and procedures to enable the process (Hears
    cases in place of BZA, but subject to the rules
    procedures of the Plan Commission)

84
Questions?
  • K.K. Gerhart-Fritz, AICP
    The Planning Workshop
    317-598-0273,
    planningworkshop_at_comcast.net
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