Whenever I attend the public meetings in the city and county building, I sit in the far corner so I have a view of both those officiating the meetings and the public attendees. I walked out of the meeting tonight feeling embarrassed for my future profession and quite honestly a little incensed at how the board treated one of the applicants.
I think that there is a very nuanced ethical dilemma that creeps into some of the applications presented at these meetings. While the majority are fairly cut and dry cases, there are those that really test the notion of the letter versus the spirit of the law.
I sat there and watched the faces of the applicants as their cases were approved or denied tonight and I couldn’t help but recognize that there are real people’s lives that are affected by these decisions. Their emotions were palpable at times.
The board members did not look at the public once during their votes. (Even if it was in their favor).
There was a complete disconnect.
In my mind this is unacceptable. Zoning, planning, adjustments, master plans are all tools that are designed to enhance the community and its citizen’s lives. They are not to be used against them. Those that do should be ashamed and sent to the next village down the road.
If everyone owned a piece of property that was perfectly equal in size the rules would be easy to apply. In the real world though, the zoning rules just don’t make sense for certain outliers.
It is the duty of the planning staff to understand this and to make thoughtful (and dare I say wise) recommendations. They failed. During the meeting, the planning staff behaved like petulant adolescents, gossiping and mocking both the board members and some members of the public. Their body language indicated their displeasure with being there and after each of their cases were decided they ungraciously exited the meeting.
Am I being harsh? Definitely. I expect any organization, be it public or private, to have pride, passion and professionalism in what they do. This was clearly absent from this event.
The members of the board of adjustment and the planning staff of Salt Lake City are walking a very fine line when they portray they are doing the public a favor simply by showing up.
It may be time to hit reset and clean house.