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ZAP declines OK on amended PUD Ordinance

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Planner Jerry Rusthoven has made his Planned Unit Development presentation to six commissions. After last night’s presentation, it was clear that the Zoning and Platting Commission has been the crankiest.

Most likely it was the news that Rusthoven brought, which was that a number of significant amendments are likely to be added to the ordinance when it hits the Council dais on Wednesday. And, as Chair Betty Baker told Rusthoven at the end of the discussion, the commissioners didn’t much like moving targets.

“I’m sure these amendments are good and reasonable and well intentioned, but I think we’re sort of amending it as we go along,” Baker said at one point late in the discussion. “That’s very frustrating to me.”

The section on a three-member Council subcommittee – rotating for each project – is expected to come out today. It will be replaced by a tamer Council briefing, which will give Council members the chance to share the task of offering a developer input on a PUD.

Second, the recommendation supported by Planning Commission to require a commercial PUD to put aside 25 percent of its largest floor plate for local business is out. Instead, the proposal will be put in Tier II of suggested concessions.

So, that would mean the process would go something like this: Staff provides a development assessment. That development assessment is put on a Council agenda for a briefing. Council takes no vote but gives a clear indication of the kinds of concessions it would like to see from a developer in exchange for variances.

As Rusthoven illustrated, that could vary from PUD to PUD. For a PUD like East Avenue/Concordia, the concession was a desirable urban infill environment. For a PUD on SH 71, it might be a developer who wants exception to a portion of the environmental code that deals with the water quality transition zone.

For instance, the developer may want additional impervious cover in the PUD. In exchange, he would meet the threshold Tier I standards – required of all PUDs – and also agree to provide larger and better water quality ponds, a Tier II option.

Then, after a green light was given to the developer, that developer would go off and develop a PUD to go through the approval process – either through the Zoning and Platting Commission or the Planning Commission.

ZAP did not receive the news particularly well. Commissioners had no problem with Council peeking in on the front end, but Commissioner Keith Jackson said he would be just as happy if the Council decided to negotiate the entire process. PUDs have been an especially contentious and time-consuming process at ZAP.

What purpose would the ordinance serve? Jackson asked. Wasn’t this ordinance the result of one PUD gone awry rather than a persistent problem faced by Council?

“I don’t like the ordinance,” Jackson said. “I think we’re creating a whole new regime because of one, maybe two, cases, and we could point to several that we really wanted to have happen that this ordinance would make impossible to do. And then you tell us Council can just go ahead and say, ‘Never mind,’ if they don’t want to do it? Then why do it? I think the ordinance should be a briefing. They get to express it, and then you leave it at that. I think we created a very complex situation.”

Rusthoven, to his credit, seemed comfortable with the discussion, even when the ordinance was criticized. This was, of course, his sixth presentation and each commission had a different take on the ordinance. This take, however, came a day before the Council meeting when amendments were clearly fermenting.

This new ordinance does give Council a stake earlier in the process, Rusthoven said. It also prevents some of the side deals that developers were striking with neighborhoods and non-profit organizations to win support at Council. State law prohibits Council from cutting deals except in special situations, like the one this ordinance was crafting, where variances are exchanged for concessions.

Commissioner Clarke Hammond did speak up in favor of the ordinance, saying he saw elements of the ordinance he liked, such as the predictability of both baseline requirements and an array of suggested concessions that could guide discussion of what might constitute the undefined “superior development” in the current ordinance.

“I think there are some elements of the ordinance that may be helpful to focus or better prepare people to answer the question of superiority,” Hammond said. “Also, I do agree with Commissioner Jackson that this seems to be a moving target. I am supportive of an ordinance that is better defined as urban, rather than suburban. I don’t see this type of ordinance working on the outskirts of town.”

Jackson also raised questions about 10 percent of square footage being defined as the requirement for affordable housing, saying it was difficult to define such a standard in a suburban PUD such as Robinson Ranch or Avery Ranch. Rusthoven said those requirements would be defined at the site plan stage, but that answer did not appear to satisfy most of the commissioners.

When Commissioner James Shieh suggested that the ordinance might return to ZAP for further review after Council approval on Wednesday, Baker dropped her head.

So, given the likelihood this ordinance was going to go forward with or without their support, Jackson crafted a motion: ZAP would not support the ordinance but asked that that the three-member Council committee be replaced with a Council briefing. It supported 10 percent of units, rather than 10 percent of square footage. It supported moving the local business requirement from a requirement to the optional Tier II.

And Jackson limited the ordinance to the city’s urban core, suggesting the boundaries of US 183 on the east, Loop 360 on the west, Braker on the north and Slaughter on the south. That motion passed the commission unanimously.

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