City wants to adjust to state laws

Denison is looking to amend its zoning ordinance to streamline the process for applying for plats in the city. The city planning department is looking to bring an amendment to the City Council to modify the way the it approves plats.

Denison Director of Development and Community Services Kimberly Murray said the city needs to update its ordinances in reaction to House Bill 3167 which defines time limits and processes for denying plats. The purpose of the legislation is to streamline the process of approving or denying plats. However, Murray said there have been some unintended consequences the city needs to address in order to be better prepared.

At the city planning and zoning commission meeting on Tuesday, she told the commissioners the city staff had an application it was intending to request be denied due to complications surrounding some of the infrastructure on the property. She said due to the commissioners not having enough members to make up a quorum, the plat was approved under the new law.

In this plat's case, Murray said the city is working with the developer to address the issues in order to prevent costly work on the city's behalf as a result.

“The challenge is having a clear definition of when the application has been officially submitted to the city,” Murray said in a phone interview. “When that date begins, how does it fall in line with the 30 days when planning and zoning is meeting — when the plat has been reviewed?”

The ordinance also has another anomaly Murray is hoping the council will remedy with an upcoming amendment. Currently the city ordinance defines a quorum for planning and zoning as five of five members present. Typically, she said a quorum is equal to a majority, and in this case, it would be three out of five. Murray said she is going to ask the council to make that change to prevent any further situations where there is a discrepency with the definition of a quorum.

“The other challenge — other than being a tight window — if a replat is submitted today and P&Z meets next week then you don't have time to meet the 30 day window to get it on for the next agenda,” Murray said. “The other option is if we create a one page application that says the legislation allows us to offer the applicant an extension for another 30 days to review and get the plat ready. It has to be signed by the applicant and approved by the city. After that, it is the end of your time limit.”

The property that was set to be denied included a replat that would divide one plat into two. According to the documents attached to the P&Z agenda, the city had a number of issues regarding the shape of the plat, as well as, it complicating the city's ability to provide water service to portions of the property.

“In that case there were a few issues we had to resolve and we were not able to do that by the timeline,” Murray said. “Work with the property owner did not come to a resolution where it would work for them and still be in compliance with our regulations. We did not have a quorum so the commission could not meet. It had already passed its 30-day extension so it was automatically approved. The attorney is sharing with their colleagues to talk about the implications how cities are starting to work with it.”

Richard A. Todd is the Denison area reporter. He can be reached by sending an email to rtodd@heralddemocrat.com. He can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.