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Comp Plan changed to include new amendment process

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
Ward 2 Shawnee City Commissioner Bob Weaver airs concerns about inflexibility related to the city's Comprehensive Plan this week. A new amendment process was voted on to alleviate recent issues.

The city's Comprehensive Plan adopted last October continues to undergo tweaks and adjustments as issues arise — most recently after a recent development was denied due to its failure to align with guidelines.

Due to a recent PUD project near 39th Street and Harrison not conforming to planning parameters — and also the discovered expectation to pay neighboring road improvement costs, the whole project found itself caught in a stalemate.

The area in question, according to the city's Comp Plan, is designated for high-density residential development.

The proposed PUD of single-family dwellings did not align with the Comp Plan so the application was met with a firm disapproval by city staff.

But even if developers had been able to rework the project to fit into an established zoning designation, Engineer Steve Landes said the cost of putting in a brand new street would eliminate the entire development. The site is a mere 13.34-acre tract.

“It's basically better to put it on the back burner and just treat it like nothing other than agricultural land from this day forward,” he said.

So, without a specific process giving the Comp Plan the ability to adjust for particular circumstances, all quickly realized that future development at the site was in jeopardy because it could be abandoned entirely — setting a precedent for similar scenarios down the line.

Ward 2 Shawnee City Commissioner Bob Weaver aired concerns over the Comp Plan's lack of flexibility.

He said he's been really concerned with the lack of ability for someone to apply once the city had the master code.

“Why are we making it so difficult for our citizens to want to do something different than what the plan identifies?” he asked.

Though the Comp Plan had previously outlined an amendment process, it was very vague and had zero applications or fees to correspond with it, City Planner Rebecca Blaine said.

This week's Comp Plan amendment proposal was brought before the board to help rectify those matters. And the amendment/rezone process would not be extensive, as it is condensed in the same time period, Blaine said.

“We expedited to get this document to you because we actually know developers that are interested in an application location and process that we did not have before,” she said.

Mayor Ed Bolt said he was impressed with the planning department's quick resolve to address the issue and come up with a solution so quickly.

Blaine said the processes other cities use to address similar situations were assessed when coming up with Shawnee's proposed amendment.

The way the amendment process was proposed to the board, a two-thirds majority would be required to approve changes in the Comp Plan, but commissioners made a motion instead to approve based on a simple majority.

“A simple majority of the commission should be enough, “ Weaver said.

The board approved an ordinance to amend the Comp Plan process by a 6-1 count. Ward 6 Shawnee City Commissioner Ben Salter's was the vote in opposition.

In the amended plan, Blaine is able to schedule regular reviews to address citizen applications. Though some cities do annual reviews, Blaine opted for quarterly reviews, which will be in December, March, June and September, she said. Also a yearly review, a five-year trend review and a complete revision every 15 years are ways the plan will keep things on a consistent path, yet have the ability to evolve with the city's overall goals.

Immediately following, Commissioners also approved a resolution to establish a $370 fee (plus $6 fee per property owner to be notified) for filing an application to amend the Comp Plan, so the city can recover costs incurred to process the request. The measure passed in a 5-2 vote; the dissenting votes belonged to Salter and Weaver.