The notion is supposed to be that, by creating planning rules that have the force of law, we’ll eliminate the cronyism and corruption that permeates zoning determinations. No more “spot zoning;” no more connected elites running roughshod over the zoning code.Moreover, that whole "elites running roughshod" thing will still happen only with fewer opportunities for checks on that via our democratically elected councilpersons.
The problem is that the cure is worse than the disease. Unless we decide to loosen zoning restrictions (and that doesn’t seem to be on the table), there are always going to be times when imposing a particular restriction seems to be too onerous and doesn’t serve the public good.
Put simply, imposing a zero-tolerance, “the law is the law” mindset eliminates a necessary safety value from our highly restrictive system of zoning.
The City Planning Commission has scheduled public hearings on the current draft of the CZO this month. You can review the draft here if you happen to be that sort of nerd.