City officials should allow Rumiano Cheese Factory to exceed height limits for new cheese drying facilities.

The Crescent City Planning Commission recently turned down Rumiano's request, saying the higher structures could affect the feel of a residential neighborhood and property values. The cheese factory's new facilities would rise an additional 20 feet, to 60 feet, so that they could store more whey. Its current facilities are at the neighborhood's height limit.

We typically wouldn't question planning decisions that stick to the zoning code. Zoning codes ensure the quality of life a property owner enjoys - whether it be an ocean view or the type of business next door - remains in place. Such laws are thought through by a number of community members during a lengthy process that includes public hearings.

At the same time, the needs of a community and its neighborhoods change, and so variances to zoning codes also are allowed. Such variances are not to be given out willy-nilly, but only when common sense shows that the rule in place isn't quite appropriate. Such is the case with Rumiano Cheese Factory's request.

Higher facilities actually better serve the community's and the neighborhood's broader needs:

?Safer streets - Currently, trucks make six trips a day to Rumiano's because its facilities are inadequate for storing whey. Keeping trucks off residential streets would be safer for the kids who walk to school there.

?Traffic flow - Reducing the number of trucks also would make driving safer for other motorists.

?Environmentally-friendly - Six trips a day amounts to a lot of truck exhaust. Air quality in the neighborhood would improve and greenhouse gas emissions fall.

?Local employer keeps going - Those trips cost Rumiano's a pretty penny. In a community with our high unemployment and small tax base, we shouldn't unnecessarily hamper small businesses.

Given the low buildings around Rumiano's, nobody's ocean or mountain view would be blocked. In fact, four blocks closer to the Pacific, buildings can go up to 75 feet in height.