The Commissioner — Summer 2013
Frisco, Texas, Planning and Zoning Commission
By Karen Finucan Clarkson
"Apart from the city council, it's the most important body in the city," says John Lettelleir, AICP, referring to the City of Frisco Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. And while the seven-member commission serves in an advisory capacity, with the exception of plats and site plans, "it has a significant impact on development," adds the director of development services in Texas's fastest-growing municipality.
That growth — Frisco has gone from 6,138 residents in 1990 to 133,410 as of July 1, 2013 — "has shaped the work of our commission, not just in the five-and-a-half years that I've served but over the past 20 years," says Jeff Trykoski, the commission chair. "The requests for zoning changes and specific use permits that we hear twice a month set the stage for Frisco to grow—and not just for the next year or two. Our decisions establish a pathway for long-term sustainable growth as we work toward build out."
Frisco's P&Z commissioners serve three-year staggered terms without compensation. "We do it because we enjoy giving back to the city," says Trykoski. There is a two-term limit.
The sole requirement for service on the P&Z commission is city residency of at least one year. "If someone has a background in planning or development, that might be viewed as favorable," says Trykoski. Frisco's current P&Z commissioners include a developer, whose projects are outside the city's limits; several financial-service providers; an information technology expert; a food-and-beverage management expert; and an accountant.
Prospective commissioners are interviewed and appointed by the city council. "Once a year, they have a meet-and-greet where they bring in applicants, one at a time, who answer a single question from each council member," says Lettelleir. "In September, appointments are made. In October the commission elects its own chair, vice chair, and secretary."
The twice-monthly meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and run for about 45 minutes "unless we have some zoning cases, which take some time," says Lettelleir. A consent agenda helps shorten meetings, as does the fact that the commission must only approve preliminary site plans. Once the P&Z commission gives a preliminary okay, "staff can go ahead and approve the final site plan. We've streamlined the development process so the planning and zoning commission can focus more on zoning."
That focus will shift somewhat in the months ahead as Frisco looks to update its comprehensive plan. "The last time we did it was 2006," says Lettelleir, who favors five-year updates. Budget constraints forced a delay.
Each January, Lettelleir convenes a meeting of Frisco's Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, established as part of the 2000 update. The timing is strategic, allowing for the review of plan implementation prior to the April start of the agency's budget process. "Frisco," he says, "has a strong history of implementing its comprehensive plan."