Polk sets UDO public hearing for Sept. 17

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Polk County commissioners have scheduled for Sept. 17 a public hearing and special meeting at which they could approve the majority of the unified development ordinance (UDO).
Commissioners met Monday, Aug. 6 and debated whether the county is ready to move forward with the UDO, which combines all county ordinances into one document.
Commissioner Ted Owens voted against setting a date for the public hearing and special meeting, saying commissioners have not yet seen a draft ordinance to review.
The UDO committee recommended a draft earlier this year and sent it to the Polk County Planning Board, which has been holding weekly meetings to review and revise the draft before recommending it to commissioners. The planning board meets today (Thurday, Aug. 9) at 5 p.m., when it is scheduled to review the final two sections of the ordinance. The planning board has decided to work separately on article 25, which deals with ridgelines, because it will be time-consuming.
The planning board also still must determine the slope level at which special regulations for building will be required. Elevation requirements have been taken out of the draft as recommended by the UDO committee.
“We’re going to schedule a hearing on the UDO that has not been officially presented to commissioners by the planning board, correct?” Owens asked.
Owens argued that setting a public hearing pbefore the planning board submits an official recommended ordinance is not standard procedure and questioned why other commissioners are rushing. He said he’d feel more comfortable waiting on the recommendation and having an opportunity to discuss any questions commissioners may have with the planning board.
All other commissioners present said that the county has been working on the UDO for two years and commissioners have been involved in the entire process.
“If you have questions, then there’s a problem,” said commissioner chair Ray Gasperson.
Commissioner vice-chair Renée McDermott said commissioners have attended the UDO and planning board meetings and comments have been allowed. She also said commissioners have been given two copies of the UDO draft.
“So there’s no need to draw this out,” McDermott said. “It’s not necessary.”
McDermott also said the idea of setting the public hearing so early is to give everyone a great deal of notice so the public can be prepared and can comment.
Owens said he just wants to get it right when the county approves the UDO and doesn’t think the time for commissioners to comment is during planning board meetings.
County planner Cathy Ruth said the planning board should be able to get through the UDO, minus Article 25 on the ridgelines, in the next two to three meetings. The ridgeline portion, she said could take months.
The public hearing on Sept. 17 will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a special meeting where commissioners could consider adopting the UDO. Commissioners said this week it is possible they will hold a joint work session with the planning board to discuss the recommended draft prior to the public hearing.

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