Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Alpine Council Chooses "Wisely"

Story in the Daily Herald today about the Alpine City Council reversing the planning commission's decision to deny approval for a charter school. Attorney Dave Church helped them understand what they could legally do, given the parameters of the state code regarding charter schools and the role that they were playing in essentially an administrative action.

The Herald said, "city attorney David Church told council members again and again that the Planning Commission's decision had been illegal" because recent changes to the state code require local governments to allow charter schools in any zone. There is not a lot of discretion left for communities to exercise.

As happens in most emotionally charged matters like this one, residents "filled not only the council chambers but the entire hallway outside, express(ing) their displeasure by booing, hissing and repeatedly interrupting the meeting with catcalls and angry comments."

I don't know how we go about it, but somehow we must help citizens learn about and understand the distinction between administrative and legislative actions. We also need to help elected officials and planning commissioners understand, as was probably what was needed when the planning commission made the decision they did.

I generally think we do a disservice to the public when we advertise and hold "public hearings" on administrative matters, things like site plans and conditional use permits. While the public can bring forward information that perhaps the staff of the land use authority wasn't aware of, more often the public comes and expresses their "opinions" of "feelings" on the matter, which is not something that can be a basis for an administrative decision.

The solution for the residents of Alpine who do not want charter schools in their neighborhoods is to get the state law changed. Until that happens, there isn't much else that can be done. Kudos to Dave Church for his work.

30 Comments:

At 9:57 PM, Blogger ARCritic said...

In the end, Councilman Tracy Wallace made a motion, which was unanimously approved, ordering planning commissioners to work with the school to plan the site, but requiring that a letter be sent from the county health department to Alpine saying the school site, located "in a known hazard area," had been approved by the health department.

Wasn't that what I said?

I do agree with you that people don't understand what a public hearing is. Maybe we should get administrative law judges to administer the public hearings. They could explain what people can say and who will be allowed to speak at the hearing.

I think if there were more strict and defined rules of conduct and evidence for testimony at public hearings then maybe people would be able to give better testimony.

And a question, are the rules on cities that much different between charter schools and district public schools?

 
At 8:02 AM, Blogger James said...

It's good to hear that the residents of Alpine showed class and respect for their elected officials....

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Wilf said...

In response to arcritic's, question, the rules for charter and public schools under state law are virtually the same. It would be interesting to see if the opposition to a public school at the same location would be as great...

 
At 12:41 AM, Blogger ARCritic said...

I don't know if you have taken a look at the sight but there is a blog about it. My sister used to live in Alpine so I have an idea where it is.

It is almost a corner field. A creek/stream runs next along the east side of the road between that road and the field where the school is.

The city of Alpine has gone to great lengths to not put in a stoplight on their main street but this will almost certainly require installation of a light at Main and 100 S so that people can get in and out.

Remember charter schools don't have bus service like neighborhood public schools do. All or almost all of the 675 students will have to be driven in private cars. The school has indicated they will impliment rules that require at least either 3 or 4 students per car that comes to the school. I would like to see how they intend to enforce that.

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