VENICE — Greatly reducing the use of variances when it comes to issuing land use permits — which became of the campaign platform of a number of candidates for Council in the recent election — is already well underway.
The Venice Planning Commission received its first glimpse of draft land use rules recently. It’s designed to make it easier to navigate and limit, if not eliminate, the use of exceptions. Those requests, like adding more height or more density or fewer parking spaces than normally required under existing rules, have become commonplace.
The first order of business was to change the way the city defines certain land use processes for variances, special exceptions and conditional use permits.
“What we have done is change the terminology the city has been using,” said Chairman Barry Snyder at an Oct. 29 workshop, the first of a half dozen scheduled on new Land Use Regulations, or LDRs, that implement the city’s Comprehensive Plan, revised last year.
“We call height exceptions ‘conditional use.’ It has little do with uses; it has to do with how high do we want to go,” Snyder said.
“We call conditional use (permits) ‘special exceptions’ today. What are we ‘excepting’ from the code? We’re talking about a conditional use. So, the current code today uses terminology that doesn’t match well with what we’re trying to deal with,” he said.
Consultant Kelley Klepper, with Kimley-Horn, said not only does the city need new terms and definitions in its LDRs, but consistent use of those terms.
“Currently, you have a mine field, unfortunately,” he said.
Jeff Shrum, development services director, spoke directly to the use of variances.
“Right now you see a lot of variance requests and deviation requests (from rules) and there are a lot of reasons for that,” he said. “A lot of it is (due to) an outdated code. Also, it’s not syncronized with the Comprehensive Plan. And, you have a code that was bandaided together.
“(When) we get to a new code, we should not be seeing a lot of requests for variances. We’re going to revisit the standards and criteria for variances,” Shrum said.
In coming weeks, the consultant will roll out new chapters that address the environment and other building rules.
Snyder said the process used to review the new LDRs will not be the same as used in revising the Comp Plan. That one utilized close to 60 Planning Commission workshops. The LDR revisions, he said, will consist of a half dozen or more Commission workshops before its ready for presentation to the Venice City Council for its consideration.