ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL STUDY SESSION
Wednesday, August 4, 2004 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:07 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Laws, Hartzell, Amarotico and Morrison were present. Councilor Jackson and Hearn were absent.
Community Development Director John McLaughlin and City Attorney Mike Franell were also present.
I. Presentation on Making Land Use
Barbara Jarvis introduced herself to the Council and explained she was a Planning Commissioner for 9 years and is currently an attorney and a pro-tem judge. Ms. Jarvis stated that while on the Planning Commission she spent a good deal of time training her fellow commissioners and is before the Council today to discuss the process of making land use decisions.
Ms. Jarvis explained that fairness is the touchstone of these types of decisions. It is imperative that the community understands that this is a fair and open process. The councilors need to be able to act like a judge, which means to be fair and not have any preconceived notions. Their decisions need to be based solely on the evidence presented during the hearing and whether or not that meets the criteria for approval. Aside from their families, most people feel their home is their most cherished possession and their emotions can run high during the hearings. It is up to the council to not let these emotions sway their decision.
Ms. Jarvis suggested in order to keep everyone on tract, the criteria for approval should be posted on the wall for everyone to see. When opening the hearing, the Chair should ask the public to direct their comments to which specific criteria they will be speaking about. This helps the audience to understand the process and helps the Council to make their decision.
Ms. Jarvis stated it is the councilor's duty to speak with the public. However, when dealing with planning issues, the councilors must make a conscience effort not to discuss these issues with the public. If a person wishes to speak with a councilor about a land use hearing, the appropriate action is to explain to them that in order to remain fair, you cannot discuss the case with them. The appropriate forum for their concerns is at the public hearing so that all of the Council and public can hear their concerns.
Ms. Jarvis stressed the importance of performing site visits, and stated it is important to make the property owner aware of their presence, but to not enter into any conversations. Ms. Jarvis noted that during the public hearing, it is important that the councilor verbalize anything specific they noticed during their site visit that they would like the applicant to comment on. By getting this information out before anyone has the opportunity to speak, it gives both parties the chance to react and know what that councilor is considering. Community Development Director John McLaughlin added that although everyone might perform a site visit, they are usually conducted at different times and sometimes people notice different things. In addition, although all of that evidence is contained in the public record, you should still state which aspects might influence your decision most.
Suggestion was made to prepare a pamphlet for developers and the general public notifying them as to what the councilors can and cannot discuss regarding land use matters.
Mayor DeBoer commented on reporters publishing incorrect information. Ms. Jarvis acknowledged that this does happen, and suggests that the Mayor make note of the inaccuracies in the public record. In general, Ms. Jarvis suggests not speaking with reporters in regards to land use decisions.
Council commented on the interim period after a land use decision has been made and before an appeal has been filed. Ms. Jarvis suggests that the Council refrain from speaking on these land use matters until the deadline for filing an appeal has passed. Council noted it can be difficult not to comment after a hearing, as the public often wants the Council to explain their decision. Recommendation was made for Staff to send an email notifying the Council when the appeal timeframe has concluded.
Mr. McLaughlin stated the Council should let the applicant know if they do not feel there is not enough evidence to make a decision. At that point, usually the applicant will ask for an extension to bring back additional evidence.
Council discussed when was the appropriate time to ask Staff questions. Ms. Jarvis stated the appropriate time is after the applicant and opponent have had the chance to speak. However at the beginning of the public hearing, the Council should ask the speakers to address any specific concerns that will affect their decision. It was noted that if the Council does not disclose an area that concerns them, the applicant might not address that issue because they are not aware it is a concern.
Council discussed how to determine if a council member has bias. Ms. Jarvis stated that usually the councilor with the bias would disclose that themselves, however there are rare occasions where the Council should make a motion and recuse the biased councilor by vote.
Council questioned why some applications are heard before the Hearings Board and not the full Planning Commission. Mr. McLaughlin clarified that because of the 120-day rule, sometimes it is not possible to have a case heard in front of the Planning Commission. Typically, the Hearings Board only handles the very simple cases, and it is a way of managing the heavy workload.
Council discussed the public hearing format. Mr. Franell clarified that the Council agreed upon the format, however it can be changed if the Council desires to do so. Council agreed that they would like Staff to look into the possibility of adjusting the public hearing format and bring a proposal forward at a future council meeting.
Meeting was adjourned at 1:42 p.m.
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder