P&Z passed zoning ordinance the right way

Published 8:55 pm Friday, August 30, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

The way Danville-Boyle Planning and Zoning passed a set of major revisions to its zoning ordinance is a textbook example of how government ought to get things done. There are other agencies that would benefit from studying how P&Z acted, and other issues in the community that could probably be solved quickly and less painfully using the same methods.

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For starters, P&Z avoided any unnecessary surprises. P&Z officials were on the record months, perhaps even a year before the actual ordinance revision process began, talking about problems with the existing zoning ordinance and how revisions could make it better.

Before any public hearing was even held, P&Z Director Steve Hunter went on a public relations tour of sorts, taking different pieces of the draft revisions around and presenting them to groups that could or would be affected by the changes.

The P&Z Commission then spent three months holding a public hearing on the proposed revisions.

Transparency from the beginning meant no one felt blindsided and if any member of the public did have concerns, they were likely heard and their concerns addressed early on. P&Z encountered very little public criticism of the revisions during its public hearings as a result.

Sometimes, governments do a lot of the work on new projects behind the scenes, then present the work as an almost-finished product. Even when government officials are open and interested in modifications to that product, the mere fact it seems to show up out of the blue to the average citizen can make people feel like the government is being driven like a steamroller.

One issue did come up during the public hearings — local residents who had worked unbelievably hard to pass a zoning amendment in 2016 to protect their community from hazardous pipelines were afraid the new proposal could weaken what they had accomplished.

Again, P&Z handled the situation as any government entity should. P&Z officials stated the case for their proposed modifications, but they also listened to those with different ideas, both during the public hearings and in between in private meetings.

What emerged was a final product that might not be anybody’s dream, but that everyone believes keeps the best ideas from both sides.

No one let ego stand in their way of making changes or accepting a compromise. They landed on a plan mostly agreeable to both sides, then both sides bought in and — perhaps most importantly — everyone moved on without holding a grudge.

The proposed zoning ordinance amendments must still be examined and approved by the governments who participate in P&Z before they become law. But P&Z handled its part of the job well and set an example for the other governments to follow.