In the midst of devious developers' demolition derby, after the demolitions of Don Pedro Fornells House, Echo House and Carpenter's House,
after the outsize influence shown by rubber-stamp approval of outrageous, oversize hotels and other abominations,
here's the City of St. Augustine's stunning admission of its custom, practice and procedure of pro-developer favoritism:
Planning Officials Are Elected or Ap- pointed Citizens Involved in the Plan- ning Process
The term "Planning Officials" was created by the American Planning Association to include a wide range of citizen participants in planning who have specific roles. City and County Commissioners are elected officials who serve on the governing bodies of local government. In Florida, these elected offi- cials play a significant role in planning and growth management. They are the final authority for the adoption of a community’s comprehensive plan, the enactment of its land development regulations and the approval of major development applica- tions. City and County Commissions also typically appoint the officials who serve on the planning commissions and other boards of their community.
Planning Commissioners are appointed to serve on local planning commissions. Planning commission- ers are the keepers of the Comprehensive Plan. They initiate and guide long-range planning ef- forts, conduct public meetings and hearings on proposed plans and projects, review development proposals for conformance with local plans and de- velopment regulations, and develop new planning programs.
Zoning Board members are appointed to serve on boards that review development applications. Zon- ing boards normally make recommendations to the local governing body regarding rezonings and oth- er development approvals but may serve as the final approval authority for some actions pre- scribed by the local regulations. Planning commis- sions may serve as a zoning board to perform this function in many communities.
Board of Adjustment members are appointed, vol- unteer officials who serve on a board that hears appeals or requests for variances and conditional use approvals, all zoning and land use matters. The work of the board is generally limited to re- view of applications for conditional use permits, variances, and other appeals. In some communi- ties, the functions of a planning board and a zon- ing board of appeals are performed by a joint plan- ning and zoning commission.
The Work of the Planning Commission
The Planning Commission's goal is to make the comprehensive plan work. The Planning Commis- sion’s first responsibility is to recommend a com- prehensive plan that reflects the vision and values of the community. The planning commission is a lay body that in many ways speaks for the com- munity. These volunteer citizens give their time, energy, and intelligence to evaluating their com- munity and its future, and advise the elected offi- cials about future directions.
The Planning Commissions second goal is to move the plan from vision to reality. To do this, the planning commission must examine each issue and every application and ask the question, "Does this proposal further the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan?” If so, the proposal conforms to the public interest as expressed in the plan and should normally be approved. If not, the proposal runs contrary to the public interest as expressed in the plan and should normally be rejected. All of this seems straightforward enough, but in practice things are much more complex. The comprehen- sive plan, for example, while offering guidance and showing direction, will not often provide automatic answers.
In addition to ensuring that the decisions of the planning commission conform to the comprehen- sive plan, it is also the duty of planning commis- sion members to ensure that the plan is kept up to date. As technology changes, for example, what is practical or possible in the plan will also change. Further, as a community evolves, so too will the goals and objectives of its citizenry. New ideas will be introduced. Existing land uses will change. It may become evident that aspects of the plan are no longer relevant. For all of these reasons and more, a key task of the planning commission is to make certain that the plan is current and, if not, that the plan be updated and amended.
Evaluating and amending the plan should be a reg- ular part of the planning commission's annual agenda. At least once per year, the commission should schedule time to review the existing plan and then develop any changes as required. This
will ensure that the plan remains an accurate re- flection of community values and will also serve to reinforce the importance of the plan to the mem- bers of the planning commission itself.
The Work of the Zoning Board
The “Zoning Board” reviews development applica- tions and makes recommendations to the local governing authority. The “zoning board” reviews development applications for consistency with the comprehensive plan, compliance with the land de- velopment regulations of the community and ad- herence to accepted planning practices and princi- ples. The development review process normally involves an analysis and recommendation by an appointed body before a final decision is made by the local governing body. The procedures that guide this review are prescribed by the communi- ty’s land development code and typically involve rezonings, subdivision review, site plan review and other processes.
A community may not have a “zoning board” but the review function described above does exist by one name or another within the planning structure. Often a planning commission will perform this role. In other communities, a hearing officer may be used. Regardless of where the responsibility is as- signed, it is an essential function and one that typ- ically involves the planning officials’ most active and direct involvement in community issues.
The Work of the Board of Adjustment
Communities have “boards of appeal” or “boards of zoning adjustment”. For convenience, the term “board of adjustment” is used. The moment a land development code is adopted, the work of the board of adjustment begins. As the name implies, the focus of the board’s work is zoning code relat- ed appeals, but just as with the planning commis- sion and zoning board, a second goal of the board of adjustment is to implement the comprehensive plan, or to at least assure that its decisions don't violate the comprehensive plan.
The “board of adjustment” is charged with a com- plex set of duties that typically include: