Palm Desert is changing the way it informs residents of new developments
Developers with new projects over 5 acres in Palm Desert may soon be required to include community outreach plans to involve residents within a 1,000-foot radius when submitting their proposals to city hall.
City council on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution brought forward by staff to demand community outreach, but the widening of the notification area from 300 feet to 1,000 feet must come back for further consideration as as an amendment to the zoning ordinance.
Community engagement, especially related to new real estate development proposals, remains a central focus of the city and has led staff to push for changes, said Eric Ceja, acting director of development services.
However, in some cases long-term planning projects, including the general plan, the housing component, and residential and commercial projects, have drawn criticism from residents, claiming that community participation is insufficient in the process. during the planning process, Ceja told city council on Thursday.
The parts of Palm Desert that remain underdeveloped are north of Frank Sinatra Drive and “the development model is quite dispersed, and so we are concerned that we are not getting adequate community engagement and involvement in the planning process.” Ceja said.
A community engagement plan that involves residents within 1,000 feet of the project would be needed when a project is first submitted to the planning department, Ceja said.
City staff and the developer would work together to organize community meetings where residents can raise questions and concerns early on – before a project goes to architectural and planning review boards and ultimately , to the municipal council.
City staff initially requested that projects planned in more urbanized areas of the city and exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act – CEQA – meet current 300-foot radius notification mandates, but council members said that it would be simpler to require all projects over five acres.
“We certainly know what is at stake in CEQA – it’s our job. But community members don’t know. So it seems to me that any project over five acres would be the right thing to do to include the community ”in the discussions, said Pro Mayor Tem Jan Harnik.
When asked if there is a way to better ensure that residents receive notification of potential developments and upcoming public hearings, Ceja said the city is mailing them based on the assessor’s information. County.
“It’s a challenge, especially since we have a lot of residents who are not here all year round, and they may have mail going to other addresses or to a PO box,” Ceja said. .
City Manager Todd Hileman said the city can also make sure to notify HOAs and property management companies of any potential plans and meetings.
“You are never 100% sure” notifications are received, Hileman said. “But that’s one belt and suspender item that we can do is make sure that any HOA within 1000 feet is also copied so that they can help us send the notification.”
Overall, board members said they supported the staff recommendations, saying the changes open the door to greater community participation and awareness.
“I think it will help with community engagement, so our residents aren’t surprised to hear about a project once it has gone through planning (Commission) and then made it to city council.” , said board member Gina Nestande. “I think this is a big step in the right direction.”
Changing the city’s zoning ordinance to notify residents within 1,000 feet of a potential project will first have to be approved by the Planning Commission and then sent back to city council for final adoption, the Minister said. city spokesperson Thomas Soule.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the towns of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas