PRESIDENT’S COURT – THE MAIN ARTICLE — An Example of How Our Government Makes Flawed Development Decisions

June 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

A. WHY SHOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN THIS CASE?

This 1996-1997 rezoning case provides an excellent insight into why things often do not work in the best interest of the Town’s current and future residents. It exposes a flawed administrative process in which, (1) the town staff (a) works without any, or, any meaningful guidance from the TC during the review of an application, (b) bends the rules and procedures to get what it wants, (c) does not necessarily pay attention to its own areas of responsibility, (2) even well-qualified councilmembers are unable to mitigate serious shortcomings of a proposal, (3) councilmembers, generally, have too many incentives to pay lip service to the needs of common citizens and, (4) public hearings at the very end of the process are generally meaningless, unless of course a large number of residents come out to speak in favor or against a proposal.

This review, based on an in-depth examination of the rezoning and site-plan files, minutes of the town council meetings and interviews with the residents, answers the question, “How did the town approve a development with so many defects?” It focuses on two sets of decisions – those taken by the staff during the 10 months of the rezoning application and those taken by the Town Council in February and March of 1997.

“THE FLAWED ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM IMPOSES SIGNIFICANT COSTS ON OUR CURRENT AND FUTURE CITIZENS”

The proposed development consisted of consolidating three adjoining parcels of land and rezoning it from R-10 to RGC (garden court) district. It was a non-partisan case. Neither politics nor conflicts of interests seemed to have influenced the decisions of the town staff or council-members, yet the outcome turned out to be quite unsatisfactory. The development’s residents, among other things:

  • are unhappy because the developer did not provide sufficient guest parking,
  • find it difficult to develop a community spirit because the developer did not provide meaningful, active recreation areas (as required by the regulations),
  • cannot enjoy the open space and trees because their view is blocked by three inconveniently placed homes,
  • had to petition the Town 4 years after the approval of the zoning to remove a trail that violated their safety and privacy,
  • obtained approval for decks behind their homes only after the then candidate for Mayor intervened on their behalf, and
  • pay full Town taxes, but have to maintain their “private” street, and hire private contractors for the disposal of their solid wastes and removal of snow.

In addition, the development presents “its back to the Town.” People traveling along the Van Buren Street the backside of mostly vinyl clad houses. Extraordinarily small spaces between homes accentuate the large mass of the buildings. They make the neighborhood look like a fortress – blocked off from the adjacent neighborhoods.

POOR DEVELOPMENT DECISIONS KEEP HOME PRICES LOWER THAN THEY WOULD BE OTHERWISE.”

This development will be with us for 100-200 years. And, so will its defects. What this means is that it will not be as attractive to new buyers and the home prices will not increase as much as those in better-designed developments. Consequently, it will attract lower income buyers to the town in the long run. The bending of well established zoning rules and planning principles also reflects poorly on the town staff and its leaders. It makes people question the fairness of the system and lose faith in the Town and its institutions. And, finally, the inability and unwillingness of councilmembers to effectively solve difficult problems erodes their confidence in the system.

Councilmembers of Record in This Case

  1. Tom Rust, Mayor
  2. Rick Thoesen, Vice Mayor
  3. Dr. John DeNoyer
  4. Carol Bruce
  5. Bill Tirrell
  6. Dennis Husch
  7. Richard Downer

THE ARTICLE CONTINUES ON THE NEXT PAGE

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You are currently reading PRESIDENT’S COURT – THE MAIN ARTICLE — An Example of How Our Government Makes Flawed Development Decisions at Herndon Opinion by Jasbinder Singh and friends.

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