Councildenies hearing examiner amendment 3-3

Published on Thu, Oct 11, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Council denies hearing examiner amendment 3-3

By Tara Nelson

After an overwhelming display of public opposition, Blaine City Council narrowly voted Monday to deny an amendment that would streamline the city’s planning process.

The amendment, proposed by Blaine Community Development Director Terry Galvin, would have eliminated the need for a development project’s final approval by city council and expand the role of the hearings examiner to include the review of most residential and commercial developments.

At the heart of the issue was the strong concern expressed by Blaine residents to maintain public input in the planning process. The amendment would have eliminated the city council from the appeals process and require appellants to appeal a final decision directly to superior court with a $500 deposit.

Proponents of the amendment, such as Galvin said it would have saved time by allowing the planning commission to focus on more long-range planning such as hearings and meetings necessary to make recommendations to the city council on land use and comprehensive plan amendments.

Blaine’s seven-member volunteer planning commission, however, unanimously opposed the idea in a prior meeting, citing numerous phone calls, emails and letters from citizens rejecting the idea.

Some council members, such as Bonnie Onyon and Jason Overstreet, said they were in support of a hearing examiner’s process but thought the appeals process should involve the city council first.

“As unpleasant as 25 pounds of paper is, I think we should hear their appeals first and if they don’t like it they can take it on down to superior court,” Overstreet said.

Councilmember John Liebert, who voted in support of the amendment, disagreed. “I don’t know why going to court to interpret a decision would be a failure in the system – that’s where it’s going to end up anyway,” he said.

“How much has this cost us in terms of projects that haven’t gotten started on time and developers who have lost thousands and thousands of dollars because they weren’t able to get their projects done in a timely fashion?”

Councilmember Ken Ely, who had originally supported the idea, voted against the proposal. “In the words of Franklin Theodore Roosevelt, the privilege of having a mind is to be able to change it,” he said. “I came here tonight prepared to support this change. And I still support it, but sometimes democracy is expensive and I think this is one of those cases."

Councilmembers Mike Myers and Charlie Hawkins also voted to deny the amendment, resulting in a tied vote and rejection of the measure.