We have been hearing something disturbing on the grapevine. A large number of property owners who live within 300 feet of properties whose owners have applied for variances have NOT received notification of the impending hearings from the city planning department, as required by law.
What is worse are reports that city staff is routinely blaming the lack of notice on the US Postal Service. Sure, we've all lost things in the mail once or twice, but have we lost hundreds of letters in the last few months?
The real problem is that a lot of people travel during the summer months or are otherwise occupied out-of-town. Hence, posting an 11 x 14 inch card in front of the subject property and running a small ad in the legal section of a newspaper are not sufficient notices. Nor can budgetary concerns be used as an excuse for not sending out individual notices to nearby owners. The application fee should be sufficient to cover the postage and mailing expenses. And mailing of notices to every owner within a 300' radius is specifically required by statute.
Neglecting to mail out notices, as required by law, is unfair to both the nearby property owners, and to the applicant as well. Without proper notice (and proof thereof) any citizen ought to be able to challenge the validity of any variance on procedural grounds.
We certainly hope that the powers-that-be take note of this situation, and give assurance to the taxpaying public that the correct procedures will be followed. Failure to send out these notices as required by law creates an impression of impropriety that may be difficult to reverse. And that's the last thing that we need at this time.