City Will Re-Hear Some Planning Items to Correct Technical Error

Friday, July 31, 2020

The City has decided to re-hear about approximately 20 planning items from the July 21 and July 28 City Council meetings and defer consideration of additional planning items scheduled for the upcoming August 4, 2020 City Council meeting after City Attorney Mark Stiles notified City Council members of a technical error relating to the advertisement of those items. This means that each of the affected items heard on July 21 and 28 will be re-heard at a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and City Council which will occur following the required 30-day public notice period. 

The affected items scheduled for August 4 will be re-scheduled for joint consideration by the Planning Commission and City Council on August 25. The impacted applicants are being contacted and advised of the situation and new hearing date. The joint meetings will expedite the process and minimize the impact on the applicants. Additional joint meetings are contemplated for the already scheduled August 18 and September 1 City Council meetings so there will be no delay in the consideration of the planning items on those agendas. "While we have not had any complaints raised regarding this specific advertising issue, in the interest of full legal compliance and transparency, we felt compelled to raise the issue and address it head-on," said Stiles.

The concern centers around the inadvertent omission of information from the required advertisements of the public hearings for Planning Commission meetings held during the current pandemic. Virginia Code §15.2-2204 requires that the advertisements contain "a descriptive summary of the proposed actions and a reference to the place or places within the locality where copies of the proposed plans, ordinances, or amendments may be examined." To satisfy the latter requirement, the City's advertisements, which are published in the main section of The Virginian Pilot or in The Virginia Beach Beacon, include the sentences, "Copies of the proposed ordinances, resolutions and amendments are on file and may be examined in the Department of Planning. For information call 385-4621, http://www.vbgov.com/pc." This information was inadvertently omitted in some recent advertisements.  

Staff involved in the process admit that disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role, but a more careful review process should have caught the error. When City offices closed to the public in March and in-person meetings were discontinued, the City implemented a virtual meeting structure. This required text changes to the advertisements to provide citizens with instructions for how to participate virtually. When this additional information was added, the required inspection information was apparently accidentally deleted. While the advertisements for the Planning Commission hearings were otherwise legally compliant, the City believes re-hearing the items is the right thing to do for the right reasons. "I deeply regret the error and am sorry for the delay this may mean for some of the applicants and the added work and inconvenience it poses for the Planning Commission and City Council," said Stiles. "We will do all we can to make this process as efficient and effective as possible and ensure that a similar error does not occur in the future."

A total of about 64 items are impacted and more than half of those items are Conditional Use Permit (CUP) applications for short-term rental operations. The rest are requests for CUP's or modifications for various business operations as well as a couple of ordinance amendments. Of the items on which the City Council had already taken action, all but three were approved. Of those three, two were deferred and one was denied.   

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Note: The Westminster-Canterbury item was heard by the Planning Commission on March 12, 2020 and the ad for that meeting did include the necessary sentence. 



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