The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Board of Zoning Appeals Meeting - November 16

An unusual meeting
Warwick Jones, standing in for Patrica Jones

It was an unusual meeting. The main issues before the Board were two requests for reconsideration, one relating to the McLeod Plantation, the other to a property on Tradd Street. Both involved finer points of the law and involved no arguments in defense of previous positions.

Board disallows appeal over McLeod Plantation decision
The McLeod Plantation was probably the most important of the matters before the board. At its last meeting, the board was presented with a list of reasons why it should reconsider its earlier decision. Mr. Ben Peeples speaking on behalf of Friends of McLeod then stated the board had erred in its decision and had not made proper consideration of parking, traffic, visitors, archaeology and other factors. He also said that the Board has erred in procedure. The board rejected Mr. Peeples' arguments except the latter. It deferred a decision on the procedural issue while it waited on legal opinion from the City.

It has since received legal opinion that stated that the board had the right to vote in the manner in which it did. Not surprisingly, the board last night voted unanimously against the remaining procedural issue.

For those who have not been following the issue, here is a brief recapitulation. The School of Building Arts (SOBA) is planning to acquire the Plantation and use it as a school campus. It needed an exception to zoning requirements to make the school viable. At the first hearing of the request, the board's vote was split evenly. Under the rules, a split vote means rejection. However, a motion was made by a board member to limit to 100 the number of students allowed to park cars on the campus. This was duly seconded and passed. Although it is not relevant to the legal merit of the issue, the second motion was made and passed when most of the Friends of McLeod had left the hearing.

Mr. Krawchek noted that there was a substantial difference between the first and second motions at the first meeting. The City's legal department had recognized this. Notwithstanding, the City still viewed the procedure to be allowable.

One got the strong impression that Mr. Peeples disagreed. We also think that Friends of McLeod will be appealing to the Circuit Court.

Board can never hear an appeal on a Tradd street request
We have no idea of the merit relating to the request for a reconsideration of a decision relating to the property at 59 Tradd Street. But the merit is no longer relevant. City regulations require 4 members of the board to hear and vote on an appeal. This will not be possible. At the first hearing on the matter, some board members were absent, or recused themselves because of potential conflicts of interests. As a result, only 4 members were present at the original hearing. The regulations also state that a member absent from the first hearing cannot sit on the board at an appeal. So what's the problem? Why can't the four members of the board who were at the first meeting, hear the case?

It seems that the person who is making the appeal has suggested that one of the four members who heard the case also has a conflict of interest. That board member, Mr. Altman, didn't think he had a conflict. But he is removing himself anyway.

Tough for the group making the appeal! They were told they would never be able to get satisfaction from the Board. Guess they will have to go the Circuit Court too.

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