City proposing changes to rules
City council will exert more scrutiny on major developments in Blaine if they choose to accept proposed new rules for how these projects are reviewed.
At the September 13 city council meeting community and economic development director Terry Galvin presented council with an ordinance adopting new major development review regulations for the city’s land use and development code. “We’re looking at what constitutes major development and what you want to do with it,” he said.
Existing city regulations describe a major development as a proposal “of such magnitude or sensitivity that special review is needed.” Projects that qualify as major developments come to city council for final approval instead of the planning commission.
Current criteria are residential subdivisions of 50 units or more, hotels of 100 or more units, retail commercial and industrial projects over a certain size and projects that require an environmental impact statement (EIS) because they might affect sensitive areas.
While the new proposal would eliminate major development review for commercial industrial and retail projects, it would tighten limits on residential and hotel projects, and introduce limits for multi-family projects. “There was a general consensus those thresholds needed to be lowered,” Galvin said. The new rules recommend council review for residential developments, subdivisions or multi-family projects, of more than 25 units and hotels of more than 50, as well as anything requiring an EIS.
Council member Bonnie Onyon asked why council review of large office, retail and industrial construction had been eliminated. “Those are all allowed uses so there really isn’t a decision,” Galvin said. “Whether it’s 150 small commercial units or one big one, there’s not a great difference in impact. What really was significant was in respect to environmental concerns and in residential areas.”
“If someone comes in with 500 employees is there a point where there is a real impact on the community?” Onyon asked. Galvin agreed and said planners might look at rules for large development in commercial and industrial areas.
Galvin recommended that council get public input on the proposal, which will be back on the agenda again for the September 27 council meeting.