Dewey planning commission redefining mission

Officials review code to clarily process for approving projects
June 23, 2014
The Dewey Beach Planning Commission has begun to review town code in an effort to transform its mission and allow the commission to review new project applications. SOURCE FILE PHOTO

The Dewey Beach Planning Commission wants to have more input in new construction applications submitted to town officials.

The commission has begun reviewing town code to see how to change its status from a group that recommends to town council how code should be enforced to one that reviews applications before they are submitted to council.

That is generally the role of planning commissions, said commission Chair David King, during a commission meeting May 7. He said restructuring the commission in this manner would take out the individual opinions.

“In most other jurisdictions they’re a judicial body,” he said.

Commission Vice-chairman Mike Paraskevich, Commissioner Jim Dedes and town building official and code enforcement officer Bill Mears are the three town officials heading the project.

Paraskevich said he has done commercial contract work in dozens of towns in three different states, and in no case did an applicant go to the town council first.

“It came to a review agency, and they vote on it,” he said. “We’re looking at doing something like that.”

Paraskevich said the group wants to establish a system where projects with certain characteristics would have certain requirements to fulfill, from small projects to large ones, he said.

Paraskevich said the group hadn’t yet figured out how projects will be differentiated. Some communities base their categories on the square footage of a project, he said.

“We’ll figure out what’s best for the town,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Harmen liked the idea of clarifying the process for applicants and said it’s more fair for both sides. He said people don’t want to come to public meetings and have one person tell them, “I want this, that and the other,” and then have another person say, “I want X, Y, and Z.”

“That’s all people want to know,” he said. “What do you want?”

Paraskevich said the process has only just begun, but a handful of procedures have been identified that need to be addressed.

First, he said, is the amount of time to check an applicant’s submission. Code provides five days, said Paraskevich, but that’s not enough time. He recommends a 30-day timeline to give the town more time to review.

Second, is the implementation of a checklist with preliminary site requirements that must be met.

Paraskevich said in addition to submitted plans, applicants would also have to submit the checklist with everything they’re required to have checked off. He used wetland and traffic studies as examples.

The group is also looking into the town’s code for certificates of occupancy. The code makes no sense at all, Paraskevich said.

“None of us could figure out what it was saying,” he said. “We’re going to wipe that out and rewrite it.”

Finally, Paraskevich said the group is looking into creating a fee structure for plans that need to be sent out and reviewed. “The town shouldn’t have to bite the bullet on that,” he said.

Other suggestions include a post-construction survey and yellow public notification signs at a construction site.

Paraskevich said he estimated it would take a couple of months for the group to make its final recommendations.

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