Senator’s bill appears to favor developers

I am writing to help educate the public on Senate Bill 1099 – Time of Decision. This bill’s sponsor is Sen. Robert W. Singer (R-30), who is currently up for re-election.

The bill proposes, "at the time that an application for development is deemed complete shall govern the review of that application and any decision made with regard to that application."

It also holds, "Any ordinance which is adopted subsequent to the determination of completeness … shall not be applied to any application for development which has been deemed complete prior to the adoption of the ordinance."

When is an application deemed complete? When the application is filed. So as long as the developer fills out the proper paperwork and pays the proper application fee, and submits the required reports, maps and surveys, the application will be deemed complete. Before anyone gets a chance to read a page or review a map, the zoning will be protected under this bill.

With completeness preceding review in the application process, the developer gains an unfair advantage.

Notification to property owners within 200 feet occurs after an application is deemed complete. And why are these property owners notified in the first place?

To provide interested parties the opportunity to review the documents and to announce the date, time and place of the public meeting where questions can be asked and concerns addressed.

Qualifying documentation as factual prior to its review is unconscionable, especially when the documentation is being supplied by the parties who stand to benefit the most from the proposal, the applicant and the applicant’s contracted experts. These people can hardly be thought of as impartial sources.

Moreover, the public is denied the right to be heard and produce evidence that may result in a zoning change, but most importantly, because at this point in the application process the developer’s statements have yet to be reviewed or challenged.

It would allow developers to get approvals years in advance of any concrete plans to develop a piece of land, and provides impunity as to any future planning or zoning change, even when the change is evident in a municipality’s master plan.

The safety and welfare of our local communities are best left in the hands of the local communities who will ultimately bear the consequences of any inappropriate development within their respective boundaries.

Currently municipalities are afforded this right as a matter of course, to enable them to correct ordinance language and close loopholes in existing ordinances. Please contact Sen. Robert Singer to voice your concern.

Janet Gearman