By Stephanie Bertholdo
Acorn Staff Writer
Misconceptions from some Agoura Hills residents regarding the public notification process of planning commission meetings prompted members to explain the procedures and legal responsibilities of various governmental bodies at the Dec. 18 meeting.
Four people, three of whom were Agoura Hills residents, expressed concern that the public wasn’t notified in proper time to attend what they considered a vital planning commission meeting that would determine whether a hotel could be built instead of office buildings at the Oak Creek site located on the north end of Canwood, east of Kanan.
The planning commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit (CUP) to applicants HBF Holdings LLC of San Diego and J.H. Snyder Company of Los Angeles, granting the request to build the three-story, 125-unit Hilton Homewood Suites Hotel.
Jodi Regan, an Agoura Hills resident, spoke at the planning commission meeting. In a letter she wrote to city council members, she questioned the wisdom of holding such an important meeting during the holiday season.
"A small matter of having monthly flea markets at Whizin’s was postponed to February, but a major change was discussed the night before Hannukah (sic) and one day before schools are out for winter break," she stated in the letter. She added that the plans for the hotel were available in September.
Old Agoura resident Gary Baker explained to planning commissioners that he receives information from the city on council meetings, but "I may not be on the distribution list from the planning commission….You know where you sit that people are being given ample notice…but it’s not working," he said.
According to Agoura Hills Planning Commissioner Diane Walker, a 30-day notice was published in the newspaper, which is a legal requirement, a large sign was posted at the site and the Old Agoura Homeowner’s Association was given a copy of the plans.
Agoura Hills Director of Planning and Development Mike Kamino responded that a notice on the meeting was sent to the Old Agoura HOA a week prior. Principal Planner Doug Hooper further explained that the plans were sent to the Old Agoura HOA on Sept. 26 and two members of the review committee had reviewed plans with city staff.
Planning Commission Chair William Koehler said that the commission listens to the concerns of public speakers, but addresses them "as a bank" of information. The meetings, he said, aren’t designed for one on one conversation.
"This body is charged with the responsibility to see if in fact the application meets our general guidelines and any specific plan for that area, which would include design guidelines. Issues such as economics, feasibility and that is beyond our prevue, whether we would want to address them or not, that is not what our charge is," Koehler said. He added "That may well be the charge of the city council."
Koehler explained that depending on the vote, the applicant has the right to appeal to the city council within fifteen days.
The Planning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each calendar month in city hall. All meetings are open to the public and agenda and minutes of the meetings are available for review.
According to the City of Agoura Hills Website (http://www.ci.agoura-hills.ca.us/), "The Planning Commission consists of five volunteer members who are residents of the City of Agoura Hills. They are appointed by the Mayor and ratified by the City Council for a two-year term. The Planning Commission acts in advisory capacity to the city council on land-use matters and investigates and recommends reasonable and practical means to implement the city’s general plan to help ensure the orderly physical growth of the city."
The Website further states, "The members hear and make decisions on applications for new commercial and residential developments, including conditional use permits, land subdivisions and exceptions and variances from the terms of the zoning ordinance. They also hear and make recommendations to the city council on proposed zoning ordinances and amendments."
For further information on the Agoura Hills Planning Commission, call (818) 597-7309.