Their action this past Tuesday took place after the Board of Supervisors insisted that developer Katurah Roell resubmit a request to the Commission after he failed to meet conditions they had set for a favorable recommendation in late July.
Roell is seeking permission to amend the terms of the 2003 rezoning of a portion of the Hollymead Town Center to allow for townhouses to be built in a spot that had been designated for a parking lot and commercial buildings.
At their public hearing in July, commissioners said they would recommend approval only if Roell removed five lots from the plan to make a larger green space. However, Roell removed only three lots. As a result, staff could not recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors.
Four of the six supervisors said they wanted to end a practice where applicants make changes to their projects after they are acted upon by the Planning Commission.
On Tuesday, the commission saw a new version of the rezoning request where Roell removed four of the lots to create the larger green space.
“The board’s simple request of you in this case is to make a determination that the applicant has or has not met your expectations,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.
Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the rezoning.
“What we see is a good outcome, though it seems to have ruffled some feathers in the process,” said Commission Bruce Dotson said. “We have got much more centralized open space and have much more logical pedestrian access.”
“It does not meet the original expectation of five lots, but he’s done it in a more creative way,” said Cal Morris, the commission chairman.
After the vote, commissioners and staff discussed whether applicants should refrain from making changes before the Board of Supervisors review.
“It’s the way we’ve been operating,” said Tom Loach, who has been on the commission since 2008. “We’ve gotten to the point on many applications where there some outstanding issues but there was a tacit agreement between applicant and staff that those issues could be resolved by the time they got to the board.”
Loach said the practice was intended to promote expediency, but that the Hollymead Town Center rezoning may have been an exception.
Cilimberg said previous boards were comfortable sorting out outstanding issues without the commission’s but the current board does not want to operate that way.
“They may have a different idea as to what they would like the commission to do,” Cilimberg said.
Four new supervisors were elected to the board in November and have been slowly been changing the way the body functions.
“Elections matter and there’s a difference in the Board of Supervisors right now,” said Commissioner Rick Randolph. “The commission needs to recognize this.”
Randolph said supervisors are relying on the planning commission to fully vet projects so they can concentrate on other matters of government.
“I think that what we need moving forward are some criteria the Board of Supervisors will agree to whereby they will follow the criteria to kick it back to us,” Randolph said.
However, state law will make it hard for the Planning Commission to require that an applicant come back to them with revisions.
“You can’t defer [a decision on] an application without the applicant’s due to a state code requirement that these actions take place within 90 days.” Cilimberg said.
Roell’s application will go back before the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 8.
Meanwhile, Morris said the chairs and vice-chairs of both bodies will hold a meeting to discuss ways to streamline the development review process.