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— In an attempt to streamline the county's planning projects, the Benton County Planning Board unveiled a working matrix of how to determine which proposed building projects are to be considered large-scale developments.

Using the matrix allows the county Planning Department to rate each project that is up for a building permit on a high, medium or low scale in a series of categories.

Those categories include the location of the project, the use of the property, property size, the number of employees, building size, site changes, traffic impact, environmental impact and modifications to existing structures.

Permit fees will be determined according to how each project ranks after being put through the matrix.

"We are not putting any laws down. We are just putting down guidelines," board member Mark Curtis said of the matrix.

"This matrix is only the first step. I envision an additional step that addresses the regulations themselves. This (the matrix) is simply an administrative change," board member Lane Gurel said.

The county's building regulations themselves may have more than a problem or two.

"The regulations that we so heartily refer to and say that the Quorum Court approved them, and that may not be so.

The reality of the situation is we have had planning directors pencil (regulations) in,"said Chris Glass, county administrator.

Later in the discussion, it was revealed that the matrix, which is still under development and scheduled for implementation Sept. 1, is simply the first step in adopting a master plan for the county.

Discussions with Benton County Judge Dave Bisbee have revealed that a master land-use plan for Benton County is the appropriate direction for the county Planning Department to begin to take, Glass said.

"Without (a master landuse plan), we are just poking at doing things the best we can. (The matrix) is definitely a long way in the right direction of addressing the question of what is a largescale development," Glass said.

Community, Pages 3 on 08/12/2009

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