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Zoning applicants lie to get their requests approved

We don’t often offer much commentary on zoning issues within local municipalities, but several recent cases in Burlington have raised our concerns.

The latest craze in recent years among municipal governments is to offer a zoning designation commonly referred to as “conditional zoning – limited use.”

The old days of “straight” zoning — commercial, industrial and residential — have given way to special designations that give municipal planning officials and their elected boards more control over what someone will build on a particular parcel, or how they want to do it. use an existing building. The ‘Conditional’ and ‘Limited Use’ designations allow governments to know what the intent is from the start of the process.

Bureaucrats and even some elected officials may try to claim that what they are seeking is “more discretion,” but what they are really doing is imposing more government control over what property owners can do with their properties.

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What particularly irritates us is the practice, especially in Burlington, of encouraging – or even requiring – that a rezoning applicant list multiple possible purposes for their property, even when they have already decided on a certain custom and have done so no intention of using the property for such recommended alternative purposes.

An example of this will come before the Burlington City Council next week.

In this case, the applicant wants to set up a car wash on the site of a now closed supermarket on Rauhutstraat – certainly an improvement for that part of the city. Therefore, he filed a rezoning request to limit the use of the property to this one business.

Seems simple and clear enough.

But city bureaucrats insisted that the applicant, Manuel Diaz Marquez, list other possible uses for the property — in addition to the car washing and car detailing businesses he initially applied for and actually hopes to operate.

What the city is doing now is essentially pressuring applicants lie about their intentions by including external potential applications as part of the proposed restrictions.

Applicants are strong-armed into seeking out possible uses that city bureaucrats find attractive or pleasant, even if the developer/owner/applicant has no interest in pursuing those alternative uses.

For example, Mr. Marquez stated matter-of-factly in his original application that he intended to establish a car wash and auto detailing business, which is one of 114 permitted uses in the general business zone in which his property is located.

But city planning bureaucrats rejected Mr. Marquez’s original request, saying it was “too restrictive” and recommended against it.

City staff then persuaded Mr. Marquez to expand the list of possible uses for the same parcel. While his actual intent remains to establish a car wash and car detailing business, which is still included in the request, his revised request proposes to list nine other possible uses: a daycare center, computer-related services, a grocery store ( without petrol sales), a supermarket (with petrol sales), a flea market, a repair shop, a restaurant (with indoor/outdoor seating), retail and wholesale.

With the addition of these extraneous (and unintended purposes), the city’s bureaucrats gave Mr. Marquez’s revised request their stamp of approval. They then urged the compliant planning board to approve the request, which they did unanimously, 7-0.

This was at least the third recent rezoning request we have observed where bureaucrats opposed a “limited use” application on the grounds that it was “too narrow” (or “restrictive” in their language).

They would apparently prefer camouflage or subterfuge to real, honest and direct rezoning requests, like the one Mr. Marquez originally made.

Now it may be purely coincidental, but we also see that in all three of these cases the applicants had Spanish names.

We wouldn’t find it more acceptable if the people bullying city officials were white or black instead of Hispanic.

But the fact that all three appear to be Latin American makes us wonder if city bureaucrats have targeted this demographic because they deem it less sophisticated or smart, and perhaps a little easier to meet their demands.

In any case, we would urge the Burlington City Council to stop the continuation of this charade, which undermines public faith and trust in city government – ​​and encourages false and misleading requests from people whose honest descriptions of their plans are discouraged or pushed aside.