PC to OK sketch plan approvals

BLYTHEWOOD – Council discussed during a workshop last week a proposal drafted by Town Attorney Jim Meggs that would give the Planning Commission the authority to approve sketch plans for developers of subdivisions rather than making it an optional function.

“This will give developers greater certainty about the Town’s subdivision review and approval process,” Town Administrator Gary Parker told Council members last week during their monthly workshop.

Currently, Town Planning Consultant Michael Criss and Parker review and approve sketch plans. It later goes before the Planning Commission for preliminary plat approval, but, Parker pointed out, maybe not before the developer has already committed to expensive engineering, to the drafting of a preliminary plat and before the developer even knows whether their 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.

“One developer complained that he had the sketch plan approved by staff, then, before he could get it back to the Planning Commission for preliminary plat approval, he had already spent a lot of money. That is wasted money if the Commission turns it down,” Meggs told Council.

“This proposal moves it (sketch plan) to the Commission for approval, giving the developer vested rights for two years,” Meggs said. “This protects the developer from rule changes during that time.”

Councilman Tom Utroska asked how the Commissioners would get sufficient training to understand how to make the approvals of a sketch plan.

“We currently rely on the Town Administrator who is qualified to do that,” Utroska said.

“From a legal perspective,” Meggs said, “it’s Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people you appoint to the Commission actually comply with the statutory required hours of education to make these decisions.”

Meggs said he would be willing to become certified to conduct this training for the Commissioners to be sure they are prepared for the task of approving sketch plans.

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