Town of Frisco looking for building buffs
September 21, 2013
Shortly after Frisco resident Larry Mackie moved to town in 1998 he decided an extension to his home would be nice. But his real estate agent said it was against city code.
"We waited a couple years, then checked out what needed to be done and went through the planning process to improve our house," Mackie said. "The process was very intriguing, so when a planning commission position came open, I applied for it."
Mackie has served on the planning commission for nearly a decade. The voluntary advisory board oversees land use issues for the town, approving or denying developments and other building modifications according to the town zoning rules and Frisco's Community Plan.
The planning commission also makes recommendations to the town council and plays a part in creating and revising town-planning documents.
“Most people do it because they feel like being part of the community and want to help make the best choices for the town in the area of land use and future development.”
Frisco planning commission board member
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The town of Frisco is currently seeking applications for a new position in the planning commission.
"Most people do it because they feel like being part of the community and want to help make the best choices for the town in the area of land use and future development," Mackie said.
Jocelyn Mills, Frisco's community development director, said it's a good time to be a member of the commission.
Planning commissioners are going through the process of reviewing the town's zoning codes. The codes define what kind of structures — residential, commercial and accommodation — can be built in different areas of the town and also include rules regarding density, architecture, proximity to roads and other structures, among other things.
It's been more than 20 years since a comprehensive review of zoning codes has been complete, Mills said.
"We will see what the magnitude is," she said. "I don't know how many substantive changes will happen, but there certainly will be a lot of formative changes — making it easier for applicants to understand and get through the process."
Planning commissioners are responsible for approving or denying development proposals based on the rules outlined in the code and the community plan.
"People seem to think we can make random choices, and that's not true," Mackie said. "Sometimes we approve things we really don't like but it meets the code."
Other times, applicants can ask for exceptions to the rules, and the planning commissioners can decide if it makes sense or not, Mackie said.
If an applicant doesn't like the decision made by the planning commission they can appeal to the town council, though it's rare for the council to overturn a decision by the planning commission, Mackie said.
The planning commissioner described his position with the town as a balancing act between maintaining the town's character and incorporating businesses that will contribute sales tax revenue to the budget.
"The biggest issue always facing the planning commission is the conflict between what people want the town to look like and what the town needs to do to survive," Mackie said.
The commissioner said most everyone in his current group tends to come to similar agreements.
"Most of the time the vote is a consensus. Very often it's unanimous. Sometimes there is a dissenting view but that is always respected," he said.
The current group comprises Frisco residents from a variety of backgrounds — including an architect, an engineer, a local businessperson and a consultant. A background in planning is not required — only a desire to learn.
"You pick up skills along the way," Mackie said.
The planning commission meets on the first and third Thursdays each month. Commissioners are expected to read and review staff reports before each meeting. The meetings typically run one to three hours, and require about one to two hours of preparation.
Planning commissioners must live within town limits. Applicants should submit a letter of interest and include a statement of relevant qualifications by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Mills said town council will review applications and conduct interviews in early October.
"Applicants should be passionate about Frisco and interested in how the town evolves over time," she said. "They should also be interested in how the built environment is being developed and want to make sure the rules fit with the vision of the community."
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