Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

This is another blog that is overdue. This topic is of special interest to me for many reasons. One of which occurred recently. On April 28, 2022, the Planning Commission took up GPA 22-01 and ZON 22-01. Well, what’s that? Mr. Jon Froke, representing the property owners, Dorothy Keith and Teresa Zaddack, for 5.3 acres located at 5136 N. 83rd Avenue in Glendale was seeking high density multifamily zoning.

Before I relate the events of that evening, it’s important to understand what zoning is and why it is important to a community. Zoning has been used by cities large and small, throughout the country since the 1930’s, nearly 100 years.

The purpose of zoning is to create a city plan that develops a balanced city. Zoning is how the local government regulates and develops land within its control. Zoning helps protect the local environment and keep property values stable. It is broken down into multiple categories to help balance a city to ensure proper land use and to provide value to citizens that own property.

Every city has multiple zoning categories, from residential to commercial to industrial to multifamily, to name a few. Usually, there are more zoning categories than you have fingers. Within each zoning category there are regulations and guidelines for the benefit of the property owner so that person knows exactly what is required.

By legal right a property owner can develop that property as it is currently zoned. For example, a property that is currently zoned for commercial can be developed as commercial after the property owner has had the plans approved. Approval would be required, among other standards, to ensure proper setbacks (distance) from a street and surrounding structures. That is not the only requirement. Usually, there is a list of items.

A property owner does not have the legal right to develop the property in a different zoning category without first presenting the plan to the Planning Department and seeking the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.

This is important: by legal right a property owner can develop property within the zoning category identified for the property. There is no legal right for a property owner to develop outside of that identified zoning category. The property owner is legally required to seek approval from the city for any change in zoning. It is up to the property owner to make the case that a change in zoning is not detrimental to the city or surrounding property owners. Only if the case is made will the property owner be granted the right, by the city, to develop in a different zoning category.

That brings us to the night of April 28th and the hearing held for the property at 5136 N. 83rd Avenue. This segment, about an hour and a half, was a clown show. Once again, the Planning Commission (P&Z) demonstrated that it doesn’t understand its role as a citizen advisory body.

I took the time to transcribe this portion of the P&Z meeting. I reviewed it for accuracy and to remove typos, but I am sure that I missed some typos. So, please forgive them. I am providing the link here: Transcript Planning Commission Ap 28 2022

Before I comment on the meeting, let me explain exactly what Mr. Froke was requesting. a minor amendment to the Glendale General Plan from LDR-2.5 (Low Density Residential – 2.5 units/acre) to HDR-20 (High Density Residential – 20 units/acre); and for a rezoning from SR-17 (Suburban Residential 17,000 square foot minimum lot size) to R-3 (Multiple Family Residential) for 5.03 acres.

Some context is required. There are only two areas within Glendale that have large swaths of land zoned as SR-17 (Suburban residential, lot size of 17,000 square feet). One is comprised of 500+ acres south of Union Hills and around 67th. This land has already been developed at 1 to 4 lots to the acre. Those lots appear to be around 4 homes to the acre with lot sizes in the 8,000 to 10,000 SF range. Was the development a deviation from the SR-17 zoning? Yes, but it was decided to be appropriate as it was single family residential to another single family residential category with a reasonable modification as to the lot sizes (or density). It appears as if the lot sizes went from 17,000 SF down to 8,000 SF, a jump in density by 2 zoning categories. The applicant(s) made their case that rezoning would not be detrimental to the city or surrounding neighborhoods.

The other large swath, about 200 acres, is along 83rd from Glendale to Northern. Much of the land has already been developed as single family residential on large lots. The property in question is within this sea of large lot development along 83rd and the applicant is requesting to go from single family residential to multifamily residential by placing 20 units to the acre. The applicant is seeking a jump in density by 6 zoning categories from SR-17; SR-12; R 1-10; R 1-8; R 1-6; R 1-4; R 2 to R3. That, in and of itself is excessive.

There were several things about this particular P&Z agenda item that were concerning and by reading the transcript, I think you will agree. The first was the P&Z philosophy seems to be that by right, the property owner should be granted the right to rezone the property to any zoning category and P&Z was there to ensure that it happened. Not so. The applicant comes before the P&Z to make the case that it should receive greater, more dense zoning. In my estimation, the applicant did not make the case. Mr. Froke said this property would be a transition between the commercial development to its immediate south and the large lot, single family residential to its immediate north. However, across the street there is commercial directly to the south of and abutting large, single family lots of an acre or more (where our Mayor lives). It has been like this for 20 years or more and there have been no issues between the commercial and the large lot residences.

Another area of concern was the belief of Chairperson Vernon Crow that it is the responsibility of the P&Z to facilitate consensus in allowing this type of development at that location and to do so, to broker a meeting between the applicant and the surrounding neighborhoods. That is not the role of nor the responsibility of the P&Z.

Yet another area of concern was Commissioner Tom Cole’s request that the Planning Department has an obligation to provide both sides of the request. Excuse me, the Planning Department’s obligation is to present the facts of the application and to present the facts regarding its recommendation. In this case, it was a recommendation of denial. It did that and is under no obligation to present the case for the applicant. That is the applicant’s responsibility.

I believe Commissioner Gary Hirsch was out of order. As the Interim Planning Director, Tabitha Perry, was summarizing the reasons for the department’s recommendation of denial, Commissioner Hirsch interrupted her and accused her of “selling” the recommendation of denial. He was rude and his comments were inappropriate.

I also was not impressed by the city’s senior planner, George Gehlert. His job was the present the facts and to support the department’s recommendation of denial. In my estimation, he failed to do so.

What was the result? The first motion, made by Commissioner Hirsch was for approval and failed for lack of a second. The second motion, made by Commissioner Nowakowski was for denial and failed due to a tie vote with Commissioners John Crow (no relation to Vernon Crow), Martin Nowakowski and John Guers supporting denial and Commissioners Vernon Crow, Tom Cole and Gary Hirsh not supporting denial. The final motion, made by Commissioner John Crow, was to table with the applicant deciding when it would be brought back before the Commission. All Commissioners supported the motion except for Commissioner Gary Hirsch.

My greatest concern is that if approved, this decision becomes precedent setting for the entire city. It opens the door to any large lot, residential property owner within all of Glendale to seek similar zoning. There are many single family, large lot properties throughout Glendale that would then have the potential to develop a property as dense, multifamily. If this action is approved, it is going to be extremely difficult to deny a similar zoning request to any other large lot property owner.

It makes the city’s zoning plan irrelevant. Why would a zoning plan be needed if the intent is to ignore it? It creates the ‘Wild West’ in development of the city. If current zoning is to be ignored then there is no rationale to adhere to it or keep it.

© Joyce Clark, 2022      


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.