What’s next with the Hearing Examiner?

January 25, 2012 00:41 by Ryan

The City Council’s consideration of a switch to a Hearing Examiner system for review and approval of land use applications is moving forward. Here is the process the Planning Director proposed at Monday night’s City Council study session. The City Council did not adopt any process, so what follows is only one possible (but also probable) general approach. We may decide to modify the process as we get into it further.

  1. The City Council will begin discussion of the proposal (changes to Anacortes Municipal Code Titles 16-18, and new Title 19) at a study session on March 12. The City Council might suggest alternative language, and would need to decide at the conclusion of the study session how next to proceed.
  2. Staff will send the document with the City Council suggestions to an attorney for review.
  3. The City Council will discuss the attorney-reviewed document and might consider further changes.
  4. At a later meeting, the City Council would itself hold a public hearing on the near-final document.
  5. Either immediately following the public hearing, or at some later meeting, the City Council would hold further deliberations, make any (minor) final changes, and then adopt or reject the proposal.

Note that the current draft of the proposal (available here as various documents beginning with the word “Title”) includes two options—one to revise land uses procedures using a Hearing Examiner (Title 19 Option A), and one to revise without adopting a Hearing Examiner (Title 19 Option B). I have repeatedly stated my opposition to adopting a Hearing Examiner system at this time (and I’ll detail that opposition further on this blog sometime later), but I am supportive in concept of reforming our land use procedures, which are currently a sorry mess.

Your comments are welcome. This is a purely legislative (as opposed to quasi-judicial) matter, and you may contact me about it at any time. If you want your comments made part of the record, however, you should submit them through participation in the City’s formal process (i.e. at the public hearing or during an advertised written comment period).

Comments (1) -

Frank Spargo

January 25, 2012 12:24

Thanks for this detailed information, Ryan.  I would personally like to see public input at an earlier time in the proceeding.  It seems to me that if a public hearing is allowed only after the Cc's discussion and review by an attorney that the decision has been made and any further public input is just a pro forma hearing to comply with the law.

I also understand that there is a lot of public testimony collected by the planning commission, but much of that is over a year old.  With so many changes to consider (four separate titles) the public needs to be given notice of where all the documents are (not just the current proposal) and time to digest the information and prepare comments.  I think these comments should be submitted prior to or during the CC initial discussions.

Thank you.

Frank Spargo

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