Council cedes say on land-use issues to commission

Officials tout efficiency for applicants

 

Clint Riese
News Editor

For the sake of efficiency, the Forest Lake City Council on Monday approved an ordinance amendment that will take decisions out of the hands of elected officials.

The council unanimously voted in favor of giving the Planning Commission control over several land-use issues: conditional use permits, interim use permits, site plan reviews and variances. Previously, the City Council took on such requests after the commission lent a recommendation.

There is one caveat: the commission’s rulings can be appealed within 10 days to the council for a final say.

Community Development Director Doug Borglund pitched the plan on Monday, touting a time savings for applicants. He estimated that 95 percent of requests in those categories are approved. Now, applicants can get to their projects without waiting for the council’s rubber stamp.

“The essence of what’s happening here is we’re reducing a step in the process,” Borglund said. “We can only go so fast in government, but this is an effort to try to maybe streamline our process a little bit.”

The idea surfaced at a joint workshop of the council and commission in January. The Planning Commission then considered it in February and gave a unanimous recommendation, and a public hearing took place this month.

Councilman Mike Freer said the idea originated with Mayor Chris Johnson.

“The mayor and I talked about this when we were first elected – trying to streamline some of these processes,” Freer said. “I give the mayor all the credit on this one; he’s really kind of pushed for this one.”

The ordinance changes will take effect after language regarding the appeal process is modified and approved.

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