March 20, 2015
Mayor Zach Smith
Councilor Molly Absolon
Councilor A.J. Linell
Councilor Wayne Maness
Councilor Jeff Potter
Dear Victor City Council:
We are writing to express our concerns about the adequacy of the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment/ /Zoning Map/Land Development Code process. According the schedule currently under review, this colossal task is to be undertaken in only 3 months. We understand the desire to act quickly, however we feel that the proposed process may lead to public confusion, frustration, and ultimately, rejection. We ask the city to consider the following in its direction to City Staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC):
-Identify project goals. We recommend that the City Council identify the overarching goals of the process and desired outcomes and communicate those goals to the Planning & Zoning Administrator and the PZC. Adopting a new code should not be a goal in Once goals are identified, the city’s capable staff should be left to design a process that will lead to successful outcomes.
-Set a realistic timeframe. In our experience, a proper timeframe is a balancing act. Moving too quickly will likely lead to mistakes that compound over time, and moving too slowly may cause public burnout and entrenchment. The City should design a process that allows for a thorough vetting of an issue or topic but never loses sight of the big picture. Identifying project goals at the outset is essential in this regard.
-Break the process into topical pieces. Reviewing an entire planning code document chapter-by-chapter creates an inability to see the forest for the trees. We recommend the process focus on topics such as community design/character, housing needs, commercial & industrial demand, transportation, desired character by neighborhood, and other key areas of importance. The city is at a significant advantage in that it has a solid nuts-and-bolts draft prepared by Code Studio. Community values now need to be incorporated through public engagement on specific topics. Once this is complete, the nuts and bolts can be applied by the Planning & Zoning Administrator in accordance with identified community values.
-Initiate enhanced public engagement. In our view, the City of Victor is the gold standard when it comes to public engagement, largely because of the innovative techniques developed by the Planning & Zoning Administrator. Specific outreach should be made to those who are not able or willing to attend stuffy public hearings, with a specific emphasis toward online engagement. The opportunities for focused and wide-ranging public engagement are enormous if the right techniques are employed.
-Don’t reinvent the wheel. Code Studio has not only put forth a code that is technically solid, but also zoning concepts that warrant further concept development. In particular, the Victor Block Study could provide a framework for to amount, type, and location of commercial, mixed-use, and multi-family housing desired. The Concept Framework is likely useful to serve as a basis for zoning in other parts of the city.
We note that combining a Comprehensive Plan amendment with a Zoning Code/Map overhaul is not optimal. The purpose of comprehensive planning is to identify the desired character of specific neighborhoods and the city as a whole, and then identify the means of implementation. Adding zoning code to the mix complicates this exercise considerably. If the city insists on carrying out these two exercises simultaneously, then increased diligence and perhaps increased resources should be directed toward this effort. Planning and zoning is perhaps the #1 issue in the City of Victor, and we feel the city should give it its due.
Finally, VARD would like to offer assistance with any aspect of this project going forward. We have an experienced land use attorney, planner, conservationist, and economic development specialist on staff, and we would be eager to lend a hand where needed.
Shawn W. Hill
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development