Planning Commission seeks broader powers

The Planning Commission wants to take on nonresidential design review duties in the South Laguna Village, commercial, industrial and institutional zones in town.

On July 12 the City Council tabled a draft ordinance that would give the commission broader powers to get feedback from the Design Review Board, which reviews designs in those zones while the commission rules on use permits.

"This came out of conversations at the Business Task Force meetings," Commissioner Anne Johnson said. "Things like American Disabilities Act and parking issues, with which we are very familiar, often play into the design and it is not business-friendly to make businesses go through two processes."

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger opposed the transfer of power.

"We have a dynamite Planning Commission and a dynamite Design Review Board, but they are very different," she said. "I don't favor the commission doing design review.

"And the commission has a project list of 31 — I'd rather have them working on those rather than individual projects."

Mayor Toni Iseman said the commission and the board have different skill sets.

However, Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson, who served on the commission before being elected to the council, supported the switch.

"It will improve the conditional-use permit process," Pearson said. "Businesses suffer because they have to appear before two bodies."

The transfer of review powers was discussed at the council's joint meetings in May with the commission and the board. Staff was directed to develop an amendment to the zoning ordinance and local coastal plan to implement the commission's proposed change.

"I remember [the board] favoring the commission's request," said Community Development Director John Montgomery. "Doing the use and the design review [separately] is disjointed."

Board member Robin Zur Schmiede said she appreciates the opportunity to review the proposal and has some questions she would like answered.

"But I do see some merit in making sure [an applicant] doesn't have to go to two bodies," she said.

In addition to the South Laguna Village and institutional zones, the amendment would give the commission design review authority in the Commercial-Neighborhood, Local Business, Commercial Hotel-Motel, Local Business-Professional and Light Industrial zones.

The hearing on the proposal is scheduled for the Aug. 16 council meeting.

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