Citizens challenged to bone up for upcoming public hearing

If your New Year?s resolution for 2008 is to become more knowledgeable about the way city government works in Hillsboro?even if it means wading through hundreds of pages of dry reading?you?re in luck.

City Administrator Larry Paine is encouraging citizens to read through the city?s newly revised comprehensive plan, subdivision regulations and zoning code in preparation for a public hearing on those three documents the Hillsboro Planning Commission will host at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, in city hall.

Copies of the documents, including accompanying maps, are available for review at the Hillsboro Public Library, or can be purchased on a CD for $5 from the city office.

The public hearing on Thursday is the first step in the approval process. The Planning Commission will consider input from the hearing before presenting final documents later this month to the Hillsboro City Council for adoption.

Paine said public hearings on such matters, though mandated by law, are usually ignored by the public, and he understands the materials are tedious to absorb. Even so, he made a pitch for participation.

?Certainly from my perspective as city administrator, (patrons) better care because this is their town and this is how we manage the land use for Hillsboro,? Paine said. ?Everybody in this town has a stake in how we do things. If they want to ignore it, they do it at their own risk.?

Input from the public does make a difference, he added.

?The person who comes and says there?s something wrong in this code, and can explain why it?s wrong, will get a pretty good hearing about what needs to be done,? Paine said. ?That?s why do that.

?Yes, we have to have the public hearing. But the public hearing is there for the public.?

The comprehensive plan is an effort by the Planning Commission to project several years into the future how lands adjacent to the existing city limits should be developed so that it complements existing development, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial.

?It?s not exactly cast in stone, but it?s what the folks in the planning environment have said they think it ought to be,? he said. ?It starts out as guidelines.

The second document, the subdivision regulations, kick in once new land is actually annexed for development.

?It?s governs the division of land,? Paine said. ?If you have a several-acre parcel and you want to sell off part of it so your brother and his family can build a house next to you, the subdivision regulation provides for how that land can be divided,? Paine said.

Among other things, the regulations ensure that developed property will be properly platted with physical and legal access to a dedicated road.

?The language is there to protect the buyer and the seller so that everybody has access,? Paine said.

The third document, the zoning code, prescribes guidelines for implementing both the comprehensive plan and the subdivision regulations.

?By using the zoning code, we can protect adjacent development in a way that is not adverse to the existing property, nor is it adverse to the way the developer wants to use the land,? Paine said.

?In situations where there are so-called conflicts, we can impose a condition upon the development that says if you do this, then you must also do this other thing. It allows us to put conditions and requirements on the developer to mitigate the impact on the neighboring property.?

A recent example of the impact of a zoning code, he said, was the discussion this past fall about where restaurants that want to serve alcoholic drinks can be located in a given community.

Aside from citizens who simply want to understand how land-use in their community is regulated, Paine said these documents should be of particular interest to anyone who is thinking of developing land or opening a business in Hillsboro.

In addition, the average citizen may want to know, for example, how many dogs a residence can legally care for before it is considered a ?kennel,? or what parking and signage restrictions exist regarding a home-based business.

Paine said the revised documents don?t necessarily include major changes in policy. But all three documents were thoroughly reviewed by the Planning Commission and the city?s planning consultant, John Riggs, as opposed to merely a cursory review to meet the letter of the law.

The Planning Commission likely will vote to recommend the documents to the council at the regular monthly meeting on Jan. 31.

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