Recession extensions’ at issue

The Planning Commission will consider on Tuesday offering a “recession extension” to developers who have secured building permits but have delayed construction due to the economy.

The extension would give developers 18 months, on top of the 30 months already offered, to begin construction.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the extension at the 7 p.m. meeting in the City Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. Taking the commission’s recommendations into account, the City Council is scheduled to make the final decision on the matter on Feb. 16.

About 35 projects approved during the last 30 months could receive an extension, according to Brandon Goldman, senior planner with the city.

The commission was divided over offering the recession extension, as the city refers to it, when the issue first arose last September. Some commissioners called the extension a subsidy for developers, while others said it was an appropriate response to the recession.

Commission Vice Chair Michael Dawkins and Commissioner Debbie Miller voiced opposition to the extension, while Commission Chairwoman Pam Marsh and Commissioner Dave Dotterrer spoke in favor of it.

Dawkins said he felt that changing the city’s rules now would be catering to large-scale developers, who assumed risk when they began their projects.

“It’s like, who determines when down is down?” he said. “All development is basically speculative and it’s all just part of the game or what happens.”

However, Marsh said she felt the economic times call for some leniency in city policy.

“I think these are extraordinary times,” she said. “I think it’s very clear that local development has taken a huge hit.”

Other commissioners at the meeting did not disclose their position on the issue.

City planning department officials are recommending that the commission grant the extension.

“Constrained financing for projects has resulted in applicants having to forego initial timelines for project completion, putting approved proposals in an indefinite holding pattern,” Bill Molnar, the city’s community development director, said in a September memo to the commission.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or [email protected].

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