About half of the city’s Planning Commission seats are up for grabs, though with less than a month, including the holidays, for prospective applicants and the public to weigh in.
The Planning Commission consists of seven City Council-appointed resident voters. The commission exercises advisory and some limited decision-making functions with respect to land use and development. Each commissioner requires a minimum of four council member votes for appointment and serves a four-year term.
As of Sunday, Jan. 13, the terms of service will expire for three commissioners: Mary Lyman, the sitting chair; David Brown; and Stephen Koenig. Lyman has reached her consecutive term limit and cannot reapply. Gloria Sitton, the city clerk and clerk of council — the council’s executive secretary — gave public notice of impending openings on Tuesday, Dec. 11. No one has yet applied. Council will decide on new appointments at its first legislative meeting in the New Year, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Interested residents must submit their applications to the clerk no later than Monday, Dec. 31. File applications online at www.alexandriava.gov/Boards.
The City Code requires “at least 21 days” of advance notice. She posted the vacancies 28 days in advance.
City Manager Mark Jinks said appointments don’t fall under his purview and, according to city spokesperson Craig Fifer, “city staff have no role in the vetting or consideration of applicants.”
Though not a policy-making body, the Planning Commission considers and influences both long-term and site-specific development plans before they go on, with the commission’s recommendations, to council for final decision. Such is the case for amendments to the city’s Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance; development special use permits, which allow development of a property in a way that zoning rules would otherwise prohibit, such as exceeding building size restrictions; special use permits, which entail a public review process for neighbors who might be affected by, for example, a business’ noise or parking impacts; property rezonings; and encroachments into or vacations of public rights-of-way, such as business uses or private residential fences that extend into public alleys, sidewalks or streets.
The Planning Commission can approve or deny requests for property subdivisions and development site plans, without sending those decisions along to council. A development site plan outlines “by right” development of a property within zoning parameters, but which still requires approval in order to acquire building permits.
In certain cases, if the commission disapproves an action, council can overrule the disapproval only with a supermajority vote. Such is the case, according the City Charter, if the commission disapproves the construction or substantial alteration or public facilities or spaces; the sale of city-owned land; or the construction of publicly or privately owned public utilities.