Bexley News

City procedures

Session rolls out suggestions for change

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The city of Bexley plans to implement a series of changes to its planning, zoning and development procedures based on feedback residents provided during a June 9 question-and-answer session with city officials.

Participating in the session at City Hall were Mayor Ben Kessler, city staff and members of City Council, the Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Kessler said the session was inspired by questions that residents have posed regarding several contentious development issues in recent months. The goal was to improve both the development process and methods for public notification about pending developments, he said.

"The public process is imperfect, it's messy; that's the nature of a public process," he said. "Nonetheless, I think there are always lessons to be learned from every process that we every go through. How can we take these sometimes painful experiences and learn from them?"

Several residents cited the proposed condominium and retail development at 2412-2418 E. Main St., known as the Gramercy project, as an example of a project that should produce more advance notice from the city to residents.

City Council is scheduled to hear an appeal at 7 p.m. June 24 from a group of residents who are opposing the development -- partly on the grounds that they were not notified of the plans.

"If a developer has 21 days to get all the information... and residents only have seven days to digest and respond, that's not enough time for the residents, for something of the magnitude of the Gramercy project," said Sherwood Road resident Chris Rankin, one of the residents who appealed to the city to overturn the Planning Commission's approval of the development.

In a follow-up report published after the question-and-answer session, Kessler said the city plans to expand its resident notification process from seven to 14 days. The change will require applicants to the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals to submit applications 14 days in advance of the dates those bodies meet, rather than the current seven days.

Kessler said the goal is to amend the commission's and the board's notification process by Sept. 1.

Other changes scheduled to take place by Sept. 1 include:

* Expanding notification to property owners about pending commercial developments beyond the current standard of only notifying contiguous properties. City staff will research best practices of other communities, Kessler said.

* Posting larger and "louder" signs notifying passersby of pending commercial developments.

The city also plans to implement several other changes by an undetermined date this fall, including placing new height restrictions and parking requirements on commercial developments on East Main Street as part of the city's zoning code modernization process that will take place during public meetings this fall.

Council also is considering legislation that will allow any "aggrieved party" to appeal a Planning Commission of Board of Zoning Appeals decision to council. Currently, anyone can appeal decisions by those entities to council.

Steve Keyes, chairman of council's Zoning and Development Committee, originally introduced legislation May 27 to limit appeals only to applicants. He introduced an amended ordinance June 10 that would enable the city to determine who is an "aggrieved party" and allow them to argue their case before council.

The second and third readings of the amended ordinance are scheduled for June 24 and Aug. 12, respectively.

"Residents can write to City Council members with feedback, or attend a City Council meeting to provide feedback," Kessler said in his report.

Residents may also contact Kessler and council members with other suggestions to improve the development process by visiting the city's website, bexley.org.

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