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Conditional zoning procedural changes will streamline the process


Dec. 18. The newly adopted streamlined conditional zoning process should provide applicants, residents and board members with vital information sooner than previously required. The changes were unanimously adopted at the Town Board’s Nov. 20 meeting.

Conditional zoning is a process whereby a municipality allows a change in zoning subject to certain conditions; most zoning changes in Cornelius are now handled via conditional zoning.

A staff review of the existing Conditional Rezoning (CZ) process resulted in identifying several changes which should help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process, according to Planning Director Rox Burhans.

The changes.:

• Staff comments to applicants must be provided within 30 days of submission. Previously it had sometimes taken two or three months for the staff comments to reach the applicant.

• The Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) for each proposal must be completed prior to the required community meeting and the traffic engineer must attend all meetings. Such attendance was not previously required.

• The minimum required amount of time between Community Meeting dates and the Planning Board Meeting dates was reduced from 30 days to 15 days.

• An applicant must submit plan revisions three weeks prior to Planning Board and/or Town Board meetings.

While many of these changes may seem technical, they could have a major impact on how the town operates, as well as how the Town Board is constituted. For example, in June 2021, developer Jake Palillo faced significant community opposition to his Junker Drive Project plan for a multi-family apartment building on West Catawba Avenue at the

On June 21 of that year, he appeared at the Town Board Public Hearing and unveiled a revised, reduced plan. It was approved that evening by a 4-1 vote.

Five months later, the commissioners who approved the plan were voted out of office, and anger over the rapidly approved plan was seen by many as one of the main reasons why there was a turnover on the composition of the board.

If the new regulations approved this year were in place at that time, it is likely that Palillo would have been required to submit his changes three weeks before the June 21  hearing.

Burhans says the change will be beneficial for both residents and commissioners. ”We feel that this change will give the commissioners time to address any feedback they may have received on a proposal during the review process.”

Ironically,  the one commissioner who voted against the Junker Drive proposal was Denis Bilodeau, and the voters didn’t forget, as he was the only incumbent who survived the historic 2021 board turnover, only to lose his bid for mayor this year by a handful of votes.