Planners Send Creeks Ordinance Plan to Council

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday October 27, 2006

The Planning Commission voted on Wednesday to recommend that the City Council adopt the proposed Creeks Task Force revisions to the Creeks Ordinance while taking into account the recommendations by the commission. 

Board members Helen Burke and David Stoloff will represent the Creeks Task Force and the Planning Commission respectively when they appear before the City Council. 

Former mayor Shirley Dean urged board members to review the July 11 and Oct. 24 letters to the commission from the group Neighbors on Urban Creeks, which made the following points: 

• creek culverts should not be part of the creeks ordinance,  

• homeowners should have the right to rebuild irrespective of whether their house had been destroyed by termites or by fire, 

• the city should review who had financial responsibility for repairing culverts, 

• the city should come up with a comprehensive watershed management plan to deal with floods, and 

• the city should also come up with a proper mapping system for creeks and culverts. 

At the Oct. 13 planning meeting, board members and city staff had grappled with whether use permits or variances were needed for construction within 30 feet of an open creek. The task force recommended that a variance should be required. The commission voted 5-4 on Wednesday to require a use permit instead of a variance. 

The commission passed a motion stating that it was concerned about the high costs to the homeowners of the culvert section and asked the City Council to research this before taking further action. 

Task Force Chair Burke said that public safety was at stake. “It is important to keep in mind that homeowners should not relocate on culverts that could collapse,” she said. 

With respect to the contentious issue of whether culverts should be removed from the creeks ordinance or not, board members said that the city needed to deal with this issue. 

“We are stepping into the middle of a huge policy issue. This is not something the Planning Commission should deal with,” said Commissioner Tim Perry. 

The City Attorney has said that culverts have to be kept in the creeks ordinance.  

“If taking culverts out of the creeks ordinance would result in lower costs for homeowners or address the cost, time, intelligence and quality issues, then I would do so,” said commissioner Gene Poschman. “But it’s not, and therefore I think we need to concentrate on other important things.” 

The commission also decided to keep the definition of “creek” as proposed by the task force, although there were concerns regarding whether the word “swale” should be included. 

The commission will adopt the staff’s recommended amendments to the Zoning Ordinance related to the Creeks Ordinance and related to rebuilding after the involuntary destruction of a structure.