COLUMBIA – The Planning and Zoning Commission has approved an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance that would change the way issues are handled in public hearings.
If the City Council approves the measure, some cases might go before the commission with no public hearing at the council level.
“It basically sends the message that any objections to zoning should be made at the planning and zoning level,” City Planning Director Tim Teddy said.
The proposed change followed recommendations by a stakeholders group, formed by the council in 2005. The group submitted a report in 2006 suggesting that the council eliminate public hearings on zoning issues because it duplicates the process.
Reasons also cited were the costs for applicants to participate in two hearings, the difficulty to follow hearings when changes are made at the council or commission level, and the desire to free council time for other public matters.
If less than 25 percent of the commission disagrees with an application or there are no objections to a petition, the council would not hold a second hearing. Instead, the project would go on the consent agenda without council discussion.
Members of the public or the council could take a project off the consent agenda. A resident would have to petition the clerk’s office to remove the item no later than noon of the Wednesday before a council meeting where a second or third reading is scheduled.
If a majority of the commission does not agree on a petition, it would be placed in the old business section of the council agenda and go up for discussion by the council and public members.