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Work continues on overhaul of city’s PUD ordinance

Monday, February 25, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

The city’s proposed revisions to the Planned Unit Development ordinance is on Draft No. 38, and Planning Manager Jerry Rushtoven is far from done with the document.


Stakeholders have met four times on the ordinance. A trio of Council members —Lee Leffingwell, Brewster McCracken and Mike Martinez — requested the re-write, a byproduct of the struggles to get the Concordia University PUD through the city approval process, finally requiring outside facilitators to finish the job.


Commissioner Tracy Atkins requested an update on the draft at last week’s Codes and Ordinances subcommittee meeting of the Planning Commission. Rushtoven outlined the basic structure of the ordinance and where city staff had tweaked the document.


Council members want a role earlier in the PUD process, Rushtoven said. By the time the Concordia PUD reached Council, the initial draft was all but done. Under a new proposed three-tier system, Council has additional input into the process. The Council sees the process on the front and back end, with the negotiating between staff, developer and neighborhoods occurring in the middle.


Basic requirements belong in the first tier. Council wants the developer to meet a minimum threshold before seeking to move a PUD process along. Prior to the PUD document being filed, the developer will file a project assessment report. The director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department must sign off on the report and then mail out notices to all property owners within 300 feet of the property.


A Council PUD subcommittee – made up of three rotating members of Council – will assess the basics of the report. According to the ordinance draft, Tier I requirements would include creation of a minimum amount of open space requirements; compliance with the city’s new Green Building program; consistency with applicable neighborhood plans; and preservation of environmental elements such air, water, trees and greenbelts. Requirements also include adequate public facilities to support the development of school, fire protection and emergency services.


Additional Tier I requirements include specified landscaping requirements; appropriate transit and mass transit connections; and preservation of architectural, archaeological or cultural features. The PUD also cannot be a single building, Rusthoven said. The PUD must cover at least 10 acres, and the property cannot be gated.


Tier II is those things that would be standards Council would encourage a developer to meet. Initially, the plan was a point system. It was a menu of options, with the intention to pick up 75 out of a potential 100 points.


That approach was abandoned when it became apparent that it was too difficult to assign a point value to one priority over another, Rushtoven said. It was impossible to agree that environmental concerns, for instance, were more important than affordable housing.


“We still have a listing of priorities to give some guidance,” Rusthoven said. “What the Council is looking for is ‘superiority,’ to give developers an idea what the Council is considering a priority when it considers a PUD.”


Many of the priorities listed under Tier I are outlined in Tier II requirements, according to the draft ordinance. The ordinance, however, goes on to detail more specifics required under each category to consider a project “superior.” For instance, a “superior” PUD might use innovative water quality controls; creates density that is below the expected impervious cover recommendations; and clusters impervious cover.


Other  “superior” elements include public art or contributions to the city’s Art in Public Places program; compliance with the city’s Great Streets program; the provision of community amenities such as space for day care or non-profit organizations; the inclusion of multi-modal features not required under code; pedestrian-oriented street fronts; and participation in the city’s affordable housing programs.


Tier III relates to development bonuses for exemptions from maximum height, maximum floor-to-area ratios and maximum building coverage.  If the developer intends to exceed the requirements under base zoning with the PUD – the main reason developers typically seek a PUD — then the developer must make concessions to the city in one of two ways.


Residential projects must contribute to affordable housing. According to the draft ordinance, a PUD that includes rental housing must set aside at least 10 percent of its units for affordable housing, maintaining that affordability for 40 years. Commercial properties would be expected to contribute space for locally owned businesses, an idea that won warm support among the subcommittee members.


The goal would be to put concessions on some type of scale. For instance, in the case of Concordia, the base zoning was GR-MU, with a maximum height of 60 feet. The PUD requested height of 300 feet. How could the concessions track the developer’s gains?


Rusthoven was not ready for a subcommittee vote. The stakeholders continue to wrestle over the ordinance, and especially the Tier III concessions. Commissioner Dave Sullivan expressed his wish that the city applied consistent standards to the affordable housing component across various ordinances: transit-oriented development; UNO; and the downtown plan, among others.


This is not the only work in this area. Once the PUD ordinance is done, Rusthoven expects to move on to planned development agreements, otherwise known as PDAs.

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