County code contained outdated and previously unenforced regulations on building height. Our goal was to engage staff to see the problem with the ordinance and make efforts to have it revised through the public review and approval process, including public meetings with both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
Goal was achieved through a series of meetings with staff and elected officials explaining the problems associated with the outdated ordinance. In addition, meetings with the Board’s Community and Economic Development Committee were held to inform a smaller group. As a result, the ordinance was changed to revise the definition of how building height was to be measured.
As with most issues, the main obstacle was educating the elected officials. Typically removed from such decision-making minutiae, the Board members had to be informed of the problem, then shown how it was harming the building industry.
Open communication with elected officials is not necessarily an innovative means of accomplishing goals, but it is always an effective process. Through measured discussions pointing out the inequities of the code, we were able to convince the staff and elected officials to view the code differently.
Reserve Drainfield Size
A particular jurisdiction had previously overreacted to a failed drainfield and instituted code requirements much stricter than needed, and much stricter than required by the state agency overseeing septic systems. As a result, reserve drainfields were required to be much larger than needed, requiring additional land, and in many cases, the loss of develop-able lots. We sought to revise the county ordinances to eliminate the excessive reserve drainfield size requirement, and mimic the state code.
The goal was achieved when the Board of Supervisors approved a revision to the ordinance complying closely with the state code on reserve drainfield size. The goal was achieved through a series of meetings with staff and elected officials. In addition, meetings with the Board’s Community and Economic Development Committee were held to inform a smaller group.
There are general concerns when health and safety issues need to be evaluated. We needed to show the county’s ordinance was excessive, and convince the elected officials a reduction in the standard would not endanger residents. We accomplished this by creating an ad hoc committee of experts in their field who could speak intelligently and forcefully to the issue. Their collective experiences were extensive and impressive. Once our experts testified to individual staff and Board members, the fear of health issues faded, and the Board could adopt a revised, reduced standard.
This involved establishing a core of often-times competing consultants who were shown the overall benefits to the program. Once teamed together, these experts were united in their efforts to educate and inform in a way that did not threaten health and safety.