Jul 9 2016

OPINION: City Charter Requires Approval By Piedmont Voters for Zoning Change

The following letter was sent to the Piedmont Planning Commission re: July 11 Agenda Item 9; City Code Chapter 17 Modifications proposals. 

Honorable Commission,

       The City Charter states “no zones shall be reclassified without submitting the question to a vote at a general or special election (p. 22).” The staff report recommends allowing in Zone B “for-profit entities because the City may want to allow a community-serving business, such as a local newspaper or beverage stand, to operate out of a City building (p3 of 2016-07-11 Report)”. Currently for-profit entities are not allowed in Zone B in the public zone. As zoning is the critical mandate in controlling land use, I believe a City wide vote is needed to allow this fundamental change to allow for-profit in Zone B.

     I ask for clarification and I ask the Commission to obtain clarification from staff as to what is the threshold and definition of zone reclassification and why the addition of “for-profit” is not reclassification.

     Should a for-profit business be allowed, there are deserving segments of our community that have been identified in the General Plan. The 801 Magnolia building might be ideal for a teen or senior center.  Additionally, a café for the Piedmont Center for the Arts also has wide appeal.

     The term “community-serving business” must also embody that all segments of the community are given equal treatment. The reference in the staff report to “local newspaper” can only be the wholly Piedmont serving local newspaper, the Piedmont Post. While the Post does a proper job of reporting sports and social events, Piedmont Post publishing ethics do not include objective reporting on the passage of taxes, potential taxes and how tax dollars are used. The Piedmont Post has a sharply skewed editorial bias in support of City Hall actions. Those who oppose city taxes are shut out from virtually any space in the Post and/or opposition comments are grossly misreported. The many who opposed the partially taxpayer funded “no taxpayer cost” Blair Park Sports Complex were denied equal access in the Post.

     I suggest removing the recommendation for a “local newspaper” in Zone B. Another option in the interest of transparency is to substitute “Piedmont Post” for “local newspaper” and remove “community-serving business.”


Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Responses to “OPINION: City Charter Requires Approval By Piedmont Voters for Zoning Change”

  1. I always respect Mr. Schiller’s research and accuracy. I would hope that the question as to the necessity of voter approval of changes to the regulations of a given zoning district has been reviewed by the City Attorney. It was my experience as a former member of the Planning Commission that staff was generally quite conservative on legal matters.

  2. At the July 11 Planning Commission meeting, staff confirmed that the City Attorney had been consulted at every step, and that “reclassification” refers to changing the zone boundaries, not to any amendment of the zoning ordinance.

  3. Michael, thank for your comments. I spoke at the Planning Commission last night. I asked for clarification on why the change in use, and use being the fundamental aspect of zoning, does not require a city wide vote. As Councilman Rood has interest in this, perhaps he will gain further clarification with legal references from the City Attorney and make that material available?

    At about 7:13pm the following transpired at the Planning Commission meeting of July 11, 2016 between Chair Eric Behrens and Interim Planning Director Kevin Jackson:

    Chair Behrens: Have you had the City Attorney look at the issue of whether this is a reclassification?
    Jackson: Yes, its not.
    Behrens: Its not a reclassification (?)
    Jackson: Its still public facility zone, anything . . . any use performed (?) by the City would be for that, gaining revenue and so forth. A reclassification would be if we changed the property from zone A to zone B or we reclassified the zone from public facility to another type of zone, industrial use or something, that would be reclassification.
    Behrens: that’s good clarification.

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