Fewer public hearings for zoning cases in county?

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By Emily Pollok

Lancaster County Council will hear a proposal Monday, July 15, to amend the Unified Development Ordinance and stop holding public hearings on rezoning issues during council meetings.
Currently, the ordinance requires two public hearings for rezonings – one at the monthly Lancaster County Planning Commission meeting and another at a County Council meeting.
Planning staff recommended eliminating one of the hearings to make the review process more efficient, county Planning Director Rox Burhans said Thursday.
“It seems that it was duplicative,” he said.
If Lancaster County Council approves the text amendment, a public hearing for rezoning requests will be held only at Planning Commission meetings, but citizens will still be able to address council about rezoning concerns during the public-comment period of County Council meetings, Burhans explained.
The state statute requires “a public hearing,” said Lancaster  County Attorney John Dubose, and having multiple public hearings has made for some extremely long County Council meetings. 
Some members of the Planning Commission were concerned that eliminating the public hearings at County Council meetings would deter public input regarding planning issues.
Planning Commission Chairman Charles Deese said he considered the text amendment a major change because County Council often receives more public feedback at its meetings than the Planning Commission does.
Deese also pointed out that County Council meetings usually have greater attendance than Planning Commission meetings.
The Planning Commission recommended denial of the text amendment at its June 18 meeting.
The proposal will go before County Council at its next meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 15, at the  Lancaster County Administration Building.

Follow Emily Pollok on Twitter @PollokEmily or contact her at (803) 283-1155.