June 6, 2012
VIA EMAIL TO:
Ms. Lou Brown Ali, Chief of Staff, email@example.com
The Honorable City Council
City of Richmond
900 E. Broad St., Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23219 USA
Re: Ordinance 2012-74 – Special Exceptions
Dear Honorable Members of Council,
This ordinance is being portrayed as a solution to a problem. The ordinance states that it is “for the purpose of discouraging the use of the special use permit process.” One councilor said he fully supports the ordinance because it will “unclog the system.”
There is no problem with the system. On average, it takes about 60 days to get a special use permit approved. That is a relatively short time and is comparable to the special exception process. A special use review requires two hearings. A special exception review requires one hearing but also requires a more extensive record. The actual costs of both processes are probably about equal. (The fees need to be revised. The cost of applying for a special use permit of any type is $1,800. The cost of applying for a special exception starts at $175.)
The problem is that the Council misuses the system. The Council uses a unique city charter process to routinely waive zoning regulations. Anyone who doesn’t like the rules and can afford the fee has a good chance of getting special treatment. It is an abuse of the charter process and should be discontinued. The Council and the city administration should stop chipping away at the zoning rules to satisfy special interests. It is neither fair nor wise.
The mindset of waiving the rules has carried over to special exceptions. Fifteen of the eighteen special exceptions have legal or planning issues. They should be examined very carefully and probably deleted. The attached document discusses all of this in more detail. Also attached is a copy of the letter sent to Council regarding the legality of the ordinance.
C. Wayne Taylor
Copy: Liaisons, Press