Council Oks PC approving sketch plans

BLYTHEWOOD – Council voted unanimously Monday night to accept a proposal drafted by town attorney Jim Meggs to give the Planning Commission the authority to approve sketch plans for developers of subdivisions rather than making it an optional function.

“The whole point here is to give developers more certainty about the town’s subdivision review and approval process,” Town Administrator Gary Parker told Council. “In the past, our planning consultant Michael Criss and I both reviewed and approved sketch plans, then it would go to the Planning Commission for preliminary plat approval. Occasionally, when our approved sketch plan got to the Planning Commission, they have not accepted what we had approved,” Parker said.

Parker said that, sometimes, based only on the sketch plan approval, the developer commits to expensive engineering and drafting of a preliminary plat before knowing whether the project’s basic design is going to be acceptable to the Planning Commission with regard to zoning conformance, lot count and layout, road geometry, proposed utility services, sidewalks and trails, open space and tree preservation, etc.

Should the Planning Commission not approve it, the developer might have already wasted thousands of dollars on the project.

“This proposal will get the plan to the Planning Commission for its approval first, giving the developer vested rights for two years,” Meggs said.

During a workshop earlier this month, Councilman Utroska asked how the Commissioners would get sufficient training to understand the ramifications of how to make the approvals for the sketch plan.

“We currently rely on the Town Administrator and Michael Criss, who are qualified to do that,” Utroska said.

To ensure that they [Commissioners] have the benefit of Parker’s and Criss’s input, Parker explained that there is a section in the draft ordinance that requires them (Parker and Criss) to give a report and recommendation to the Commissioners prior to the sketch plan coming before the Commission.

“We think that is a slight improvement in the process,” Parker said. “And I’m sure that many developers will also.”