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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 2 months ago

Special exceptions should not be automatic in Ormond Beach zoning

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Good reasons should be given to change zoning.
by: Guest Writer

Dear Editor:

Yes, it appears that Ormond Beach will be getting a new standalone Starbucks drive-thru at the Shoppes on Granada thanks to a 4-1 vote by the City Commission with Deputy Mayor Troy Kent rightfully dissenting.

My issue with the approval of the special exception is not with Starbucks per se, but with the process whereby we seem to allow special exceptions, and variances for that matter, to be granted almost as if they are a matter of right when it should be that an applicant should have to prove beyond a doubt why the special exception should be granted. Did my neighbors or I move into our neighborhood so that our new alarm clocks are the sounds of banging dumpsters and backup alerts of trucks three days per week between six and seven, three mornings per week? I think not. 

There was a reason that the land upon which the Shoppes on Granada were zoned as a B-10 residential area by the drafters. People who purchased homes in this zone did so with the right to rely on said zoning.

Before zoning changes and special exceptions are granted, it should be incumbent upon the applicant to demonstrate the need for said change. In this matter, I heard no testimony from the applicant or our planning director stating why the permitted uses were unacceptable. Zoning regulations should be treated as sacrosanct and not be amended because an applicant who bought a property decides the permitted use is not suitable.

In order to change zoning, our city commissioners should require that the applicant demonstrate that there is a serious financial hardship to develop the property as permitted as of right. In addition, the applicant should be required to prove that the property is so unique that it makes no sense to develop the property as zoned.

Last, the City Commission should be required to find that the change sought by the applicant is the minimum necessary in order to give the owner the relief needed while still being within the originally zoned character of the neighborhood. 

Speaking of the zoning process, why is it that in Ormond Beach we, the taxpayers, are paying a planning director to advocate on behalf of owners who may or not be local residents for changes in our zoning? Shouldn’t our planning director be defending and advocating for maintaining the zoning regulations as written?

Another problem with the process, in my opinion, has to do with the manner in which the public hearings are conducted. The process in place offers members of the public only three minutes to speak on a topic before we hear the opinions of the members of the commission. I believe that the applicant should speak first and state the reasons why a variance or special exception should be granted, and then we should hear the response of the commissioners. Thereafter, the public should have the opportunity to respond to the application and the reasoning of the commission. The way the hearings are conducted today one walks in with a feeling that the outcome is a fait accompli because it feels as if the position of the members of the public who take their own personal time to attend these meetings is only given perfunctory attention.

Alan S. Kisseloff

Ormond Beach

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