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Council makes progress on Vested Rights Ordinance, with work to go

Friday, May 23, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council members made some progress on the city’s new Vested Rights Ordinance Thursday, though it seems they are not close to completing their work on the full ordinance.


Council members conditionally passed part of the ordinance unanimously in a fairly efficient manner, though they only agreed to do so on second reading. That section includes the portion of the code that concerns project consent agreements and the section that details the administrative review of vested rights claims.


Though some Council members pushed for that part of the ordinance to pass on all three readings, caution won out. Council Member Laura Morrison agreed to what she termed “a creative way to symbolically make a statement” about Council’s willingness to move forward with those sections of the ordinance.


With that dispatched, Council discussed the remaining section of the ordinance centered on Managed Growth Agreements, which allow for phased development over a long period of time. Morrison presented her MGA amendments which defined prospective and retrospective MGAs.


Morrison’s definitions were embraced, mostly. The one sticking point was whether prospective MGAs should be limited to development that was more than 150 acres.


Planning and Development Review Director Greg Guernsey explained that a smaller limit wouldn’t “give him heartburn,” but asserted that there should be some limit associated with the agreements. He explained that a limit would help them determine what would and wouldn’t be allowed.


For his part, Council Member Bill Spelman said that the limits were largely arbitrary, and designed primarily not to waste Council time with small projects that would ultimately be rejected. Spelman asked that the size limit be removed entirely, in favor of language that more clearly defined managed growth and the means of development instead.


The limit was reduced to 10 acres for the time being, with a promise that the future code language would identify the project as “complicated” in order to get across the idea that MGAs are phased.


That motion passed 4-2, with Morrison and Tovo voting in opposition, and Council Member Mike Martinez off the dais.


Spelman also tried to change the way that time limits were set on vested rights. The Planning Commission suggested a firm nine-year cap, where projects would expire after nine years. Spelman’s proposal would change that, eliminating earlier expiration dates, and rely on existing expiration dates for development permits.


Spelman attempted to change that part of the code, but his amendment caused concern and widespread confusion. After a lengthy discussion, Spelman withdrew that amendment for the time being.


“I feel like if Mr. Guernsey cannot understand my intent, I need to rewrite this,” said Spelman, who revealed that he intended to keep expiration dates as they are under other sections of the code. He promised to bring forward a revised version of the amendment in three weeks when Council Members consider the ordinance for a third reading.

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