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County changes code on land development

Calling it "perhaps the most important issue I've ever brought before you," County Administrator Fred Karl convinced county commissioners Thursday night to change the land development code to limit the Planning Commission's potential influence.

Karl appeared somber as he discussed the issue with the commission. "I feel deeply about it, and I feel I'm right," Karl said.

His comments came during a public hearing on the land development code, a huge array of regulations on growth, development and planning. Items such as protecting wildlife habitat and historic structures, land excavation and sign regulation are included in the code.

The action also came at a time when Karl is criticizing the Planning Commission staff for how it deals with county issues. He has said the staff appears to be in a "make-work mode."

Earlier this week, Karl said he was concerned the County Commission was about to include some regulations in the code that he didn't want in there. He was especially concerned about utility and impact fees.

If those fees were included in the code, the Planning Commission would have the right to review and comment on them. The commission is an independent board that handles many planning functions for the county and is allowed by law to review changes to the land development code.

That potential review of utility and impact fees was unacceptable to Karl. He said the Planning Commission did not have the staff or sophistication to analyze the fees.

A review would slow county work and might lead the Planning Commission to seek more employees at a time when Karl is looking for places to cut back.

The County Commission agreed, with only Jan Platt dissenting. She said she thought the Planning Commission had the right to review the fees, and also wanted more answers to other questions before she would vote.

The Planning Commission has asserted its right to comment on the fees, which the county charges developers and others to pay for growth-related improvements to things like roads and sewers.