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Proper role on display

The proper role of the Norfolk Planning Commission was on clear display recently.

At one of its regular meetings, the members of the commission were presented with two requests. One was for a zoning change for the property at 1229 W. Pasewalk Avenue — just east of the intersection of 13th Street and Pasewalk Avenue. The other was seeking a conditional-use permit to allow the sale of automobiles on that property.

The zoning change was approved, but commissioners were skeptical about the plans for the used car business. The request for the conditional-use permit was made by Benjamin Escoto Ayon.

Several commissioners questioned the thoroughness of the plans and how changing the layout of that lot would affect traffic. Commissioner Matt Gilmore summed up the commission’s concerns during the discussion. “I think this plan should be more defined,” he said.

That’s a reasonable and appropriate response on the part of the planning commission.

The commission’s job is not to stand in the way of business growth or development in Norfolk. But members do have a responsibility to help ensure what is proposed is appropriate for an area, doesn’t cause undue problems for neighboring property owners and complies with established city zoning-related guidelines.

The fact that a conditional-use permit was being sought is an indication that what was being proposed was somewhat different than past usage of the property.

Troy Uhlir, a Madison County commissioner and owner of several adjacent properties, provided the commissioners with some history of the property — at one point, it basically served as an area where garbage was piled up — and simply hoped that the new owner would use the property responsibly.

Commissioner Frank Arens said during an open discussion period later that he has no personal issues with used car businesses or the property owner, but felt that the lot could be utilized better. “I just think we need to further consider what the best use for this lot is,” he said. Another commissioner wondered about traffic repercussions.

A used car dealership may ultimately turn out to be an appropriate use for the property. Or it might be something else. The planning commission wanted to see the owner present a more fleshed-out plan for the lot’s use.

That’s the kind of reasonable decision-making that one wants out of a planning commission.

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