Zoning Commission Brings a Community Perspective to New Development
Spacious yards. Plenty of green space for parks. Thriving business and commercial districts that merge discreetly into residential areas.
If you've ever admired these qualities in Washington Township, you can thank the zoning commission, a five-member citizen board appointed by the Township Board of Trustees.
The zoning commission is responsible for forwarding recommendations to the Board of Trustees regarding proposed changes to the zoning resolution and zoning map. The zoning resolution specifies the development standards for land within the township, while the zoning map indicates exactly where each district is located. Each property within the township has a zoning designation, as depicted on this map.
Every third Tuesday of the month, commission members convene at the township government center to hear zoning cases brought to them by developers, township residents, and occasionally township staff. Property owners who wish to initiate a change of zoning for their property are required to file an application with the zoning commission. Such zoning changes are usually the first step in the development of property. For example, a property with an existing “Agricultural” zoning designation requires re-zoning to “Office” before a development proposal involving the building of offices on that property can be considered by the township. The commission hears these requests in association with a required public hearing. Following that, the commission forwards a recommendation to the trustees for formal action. Most major commercial and residential developments have gone through this review process.
To encourage citizen participation in issues reviewed by the zoning commission, the township publishes legal notices for the zoning commission and trustee meeting dates in the newspaper, posts signs at the site of all proposed zoning changes, and also mails zoning commission meeting notices to the owners of all properties located within 500 feet of the subject property. This gives the commission the opportunity to hear any concerns expressed by neighbors as part of the hearing process and address any questions.
Zoning commission members bring much expertise and civic interest to the proceedings. The dedication of the commission members is especially valuable when you consider that Washington Township has 17 zoning designations for office, business, residential and light industrial uses, plus another 15 planned development (PD) designations.
The commission was given a significant role in guiding future development in the township in 1986 when planned development districts were added to the zoning resolution This provision provides more flexibility for developers while broadening the township's control over a proposed development. Developers wishing to build in areas zoned planned development must submit plans to the zoning commission for review. The commission provides a recommendation to the trustees who take the final legislative action on the proposal. The zoning commission and township trustees are entitled to review additional items such as building materials, lighting, landscaping, common areas and parking as part of the planned development provision.
Commission members volunteer to serve five-year, staggered terms and are appointed by the Washington Township Board of Trustees.
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