Trakas zoning bill approved in one week rather than three weeks

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Ernie Trakas

In an effort to get a new business up and running by Christmas, 6th District County Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, took the rare step of moving a zoning bill from introduction to final passage in one week rather than three.
At Trakas’ request, the County Council unanimously approved legislation at the Nov. 28 meeting allowing a conditional-use permit, or CUP, for a new consignment furniture shop, Wild Flowers, at 5654 Telegraph Road next to Dierbergs in the Telegraph Plaza in Oakville.
That was not unusual, but the timing was: Trakas rocketed the bill from introduction to final passage the same week it was introduced.
Most bills are introduced, then perfected the next week and finally passed the third week, allowing at least two weeks of comments from the public or deliberation from council members in between introduction and final passage. The council has seldom deviated from that formula in decades of meetings, even for emergency bills such as a last-minute grant to operate a Salvation Army cooling shelter last summer.
Trakas was unaware that the fast-tracking has rarely been done before at the council, but said that he believed it was warranted in this case to give owner and Oakville resident Beverly LaPicca the opportunity to get her shop open before Christmas.
The shop was not yet open as of the Call’s press time. It is set to open in the former digs of Treats Unleashed, which moved to a new location across the shopping plaza a year ago. Wild Flowers will sell new and used furniture and home decor.
The night of the vote, Trakas said, “This is a small family operation that wants to go into a commercial plaza and I’d like, tonight, to ask the council to suspend the rules and take up Bill No. 347 for perfection. My goal is to move for final passage ultimately tonight so that this family will have a chance to open before the Christmas season has passed us. My investigation of this indicates to me that this is a good corporate citizen and will be a plus to this commercial site and occupying some, what is now vacant space so I think it would be a good addition to District 6.”
The CUP was unanimously recommended by the county Planning Commission after going through the planning process by letter, which means that a public hearing was not held.
The change does not just apply to Wild Flowers but could apply to any thrift shop seeking to open in Telegraph Plaza. The change to the shopping center’s ordinance allows “consignment shop/thrift stores,” along with such other current uses as a post office and a supermarket.
In letters to the planning panel, LaPicca said she has been a designer with either clothes or furnishings her entire life and promised that her store would be an asset, allowing residents to buy nice things for their home without having to pay top dollar.
Dierbergs Plaza owner George Capps said that LaPicca had already signed her lease and applied for an occupancy permit when she and the company were told that she had to get a CUP since her 1,600-square-foot shop is considered a thrift store under county zoning law and not allowed under the shopping center’s C-8 commercial zoning.
Trakas emphasized that he does not believe his decision to fast-track the Wild Flowers zoning should be seen as a precedent for any future developments.
“This is one particular bill and one particular situation and I look at every business thing like this individually, I don’t bring any uniform recipe to zoning and development appeals,” Trakas said. “I scrutinize them individually.”