On Monday, the city council deferred making a decision on the Integrated Development Ordinance annual updates until June 6. Included in the amendments are proposals to allow for safe outdoor spaces and living lots for the city’s unhoused population, as well as the dissolution of the Development Review Board.
District 4 City Councilor Brook Bassan discussed how the constituents she represents could be affected by the IDO update, if approved. “The community is appearing to be very upset about the potential for the removal of the DRB,” Bassan said, “because they believe that it’s going to cut them out for some public input and communication.”
If passed, the DRB will be replaced by a development hearing officer, and all text with the phrase DRB will be replaced by DHO, city engineer or ABCWUA. According to the proposed amendments, the DHO will help streamline the planning and development review process.
“Currently, the DRB is comprised of city employees who both review/analyze a request and then also fill the role of making a final determination on that request,” an explanation to the proposed amendment reads. “There is no other review and approval body in the City that operates in this way and this makes it challenging for those staff members who are expected to ‘wear multiple hats.’ Procedurally, it’s difficult for staff to wear these multiple hats, and which has resulted in the DRB process becoming cumbersome. This restructuring will help streamline the development process for most application types that are required to be considered by the DRB today.”
Like the DRB, the DHO will also have public hearings, but the length of time for an applicant to be approved or denied will be shortened. According to the proposed amendments, “Today, it takes an applicant an average of four DRB hearings before an approval is issued. This proposed process with the DHO should hasten this timeline.”
Bassan said the DRB is a quasi-judicial entity whose decisions are not supposed to be persuaded by comments during public hearings. “And so really, any of the public comment that has been heard by the DRB in the past is technically not supposed to sway any opinions anyways,” Bassan explained.
Bassan said the Environmental Planning Commission is where the public should express their concerns or appeal land use decisions. “It’s something that they can decide, based off of more opinion versus actual legal yes or no,” she said.
According to the proposed IDO changes, the DHO will be appointed by the mayor and must have “experience in engineering, planning, and/or law to review comment provided by staff from agencies, departments, stakeholders and the public prior to final decisions about private development and ensure that zoning and technical standards, including but not limited to those regarding land use, zoning, infrastructure, and transportation, have been met.”