Jackson residents may no longer have to file a public records request, wait fourteen business days, and pay copying fees if they just want to read a re-zoning request. The Planning Committee of the Jackson City Council unanimously approved a proposal by Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote to place zoning applications as submitted on the city website.
Complaints about obtaining copies of zoning applications arose last year during the debate over the proposed re-zoning of the old Colonial Country Club site. Several neighbors of the property tried to find out what was proposed but were told by Zoning Administrator Esther Ainsworth they had to file a public records request. The city could take up to fourteen business days to respond to the request and also charged fees. The city is legally required to post notice of a public hearing for a zoning request 15 calendar days prior to the hearing. Thus the city can provide the records after the hearing even if the request is filed immediately when the notice is posted. Business days >calendar days.
Ms. Ainsworth opposed posting the completed zoning applications online. She said in previous committee meetings that she only favored posting the first page of the application and the declaration page online. The typical application contains maps, traffic engineering reports, and contact information for the person submitting the application. Oddly enough, all such documents are included in the printed records provided to the public records request that Ms. Ainsworth so favors. Such is Jackson logic. However, Ms. Ainsworth was not present at the meeting. Councilmen Ashby Foote, Tyrone Hendrix, and DeKeither Stamps all voted for the proposed ordinance. The ordinance will now require passage by the full City Council before it becomes law.
Kingfish note: This is a good idea. Few things fire up voters as does a zoning problem. Neighborhoods will have meetings at 4:00 AM, create dozens of Facebook pages, and generally go on the warpath. Making citizens wait two to three weeks to obtain a copy of a zoning application just adds fuel to the fire. They often cannot see a copy of the agenda until the day of the meeting, which adds to their irritation. This proposal will remove some of the frustration people endure when dealing with city hall. They don't care if it's the zoning department, Mayor, or the City Council. They just know they come down to City Hall and can't get any information on something affecting their neighborhood. It is all the same to them as government is government.
A copy of a completed zoning application is posted below. Esther Ainsworth charged over $80 for the 60 page application.