For greater good, zoning takes thought

The easy way isn’t always the best way in city planning.

Generally municipal planning and zoning discussions are not the stuff of many bar room or dinner table conversations.

Indeed, talk of side yard setbacks, minimum square footage requirements, and similar sorts of minutia that planning and zoning officials find themselves mulling, can, at times, be a good insomnia antidote.

However, there are also times when these discussions can be central to important decisions that can make a significant impact for a property owner, a neighborhood or an entire community — often for many years to come.

Often these discussions come to the forefront when a developer proposes a new or expanded use for a property. If the property is zoned for the proposed use, all the owner has to do is comply with site plan rules required by the current zoning.

However, if the proposed use doesn’t comply with the property’s current zoning, the owner either has to seek a special use permit or must ask to have the property rezoned, depending on the circumstances.

Often this sets up a situation in which planning and zoning officials — along with the community at large — must weigh many competing factors. Often it’s a discussion that boils down to deciding if the benefits of the proposed use — such as job or housing creation and a likely increase in property tax revenue — outweigh the potential negative impacts — such as noise or increased traffic — to the neighborhood and the community.

We applaud longer-sighted, bigger-picture approach when it comes to planning and zoning situations. Certainly it could be tempting to approve proposals claiming relatively low impacts and economic development benefits without careful deliberation and consideration of their fairness to all residents of a community. However, often it’s better policy to take the time to address the issue the right way.