Equal protection a must
On Jan. 20, the planning commission once again voted to approve an "after-the-fact" variance. During this meeting, the commission provided no legal justification for exempting this applicant from provisions of code. The commission appeared confused, with some citing a "conflicting code." There is, however, no conflict.
Code clearly identifies standards for "commercial" zones; a "zero lot line" and a 15-foot separation between buildings. Code states "Where more than one setback standard is applicable, the most restrictive standard applies." For instance, in this zone a commercial structure can be built to the lot line unless there is a building within 15 feet. If a building exists closer than 15 feet, the person applies for a variance. Confusing? Seems clear to me.
The commission is back-pedaling to avoid the uncomfortable situation in which they find themselves. This is making the code appear murky to them. This confusion is occurring because the process is not being adhered to as designed. The intent of the provisions in code prohibiting "after-the-fact" variances is to guarantee the citizens a public hearing prior to construction. In this case, no public hearing was held prior to the construction of a building that violated an approved setback.
The public interest can only be served if all persons are equally and consistently represented in the processes, methodologies and decisions made by government. Only through consistent interpretation and enforcement of code can the citizenry be confident that equal protection of the law is afforded to all persons.