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Planning subcommittee studies proposed ordinance changes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

City Planner Robert Heil provided the Planning Commission’s Codes and Ordinances subcommittee with an update Tuesday night on nine proposed ordinances that are moving through the city’s process.

Heil went through the list, noting an additional 20 or so ordinance changes that had yet to make it to the subcommittee. Subcommittee Chair Jay Reddy did encourage city staff to bring the changes to the committee two or three at a time, rather than overwhelming the commissioners.

Among those changes making their way through the system:

·      Changes to the neighborhood plan amendment process – The ordinance is intended to simplify the amendment process on existing neighborhood plans, including the ability to approve more amendments administratively. The amendment has met with the approval of the Codes & Ordinances committee and now will move to the full Planning Commission for approval.

·       Updates to the tree protection ordinance – Aspects of the ordinance remain unresolved. As Chair David Sullivan clarified during last night’s discussion, the development community and those who love trees can’t come to a resolution as to what should be protected. Developers fear that any ordinance too prescriptive will create a loophole where those who want to stop development will use heritage trees to do it.

·       New single-family use zoning category – Staff research is underway on creating a new zoning category that would be single-family with a conservation focus, Heil said. This will be something along the lines of the conservation subdivision process approved by the county, if on a smaller scale. The goal would be to encourage the clustering of structures so that a conservation easement is created.

The proposed SF-1-Conservation zoning category would be applicable in the Drinking Water Protection Zone. The trick of drafting the ordinance is to avoid unintended consequences: What couldn’t happen under the traditional SF-1 category would not happen under this category. What could occur, while creating more environmentally sensitive development, would be encouraged under the conservation overlay. The goal would be to bring the ordinance back to the Codes & Ordinances subcommittee in September.

·       New definition of home-based occupations as related to community gardens. And create a definition of a community garden. – Staff research is underway to create some type of category that can be defined as a community garden. It would be simple than using some type of landscaping accessory use on an existing zoned lot. A proper definition would make it easier to get services such as water taps. It could be back to the Codes & Ordinances subcommittee in September.

·       Amending the site development standards for primary and secondary schools – A draft is in the city law department right now. It would clean up some language on road widths. It is scheduled, tentatively, to return to Codes & Ordinances subcommittee in September.

·       Amending the definition of a motorized bike – Yes, for well over a year, the suggestion of determining what might be defined as a “motorized bike” has been sitting in the bowels of the city. The intention is to defray the problem created when people tend to park scooters at bike racks. It will create a definition that might allow some and excuse other bikes. The Public Works Department needs to add additional input, Heil said.

·       Allowing on-site alcohol consumption in additional zoning categories – Zoning categories that allow the use of alcohol are either cocktail lounge (greater than 50 percent of sales) or restaurant (less than 50 percent of sales). City staff is interested in drafting options for additional allowances for alcohol, but as Sullivan pointed out, the specifics are still up in the air: the zoning categories; the prescribed use; and the prescribed percentage revenue from alcohol are still up in the air.

·       Defining the places where adult-oriented businesses will, or can, go – During the La Bare debate, the local neighborhood protested that too many adult-oriented businesses existed in the neighborhood. The subcommittee will consider a draft on where adult-oriented businesses might go, and whether it makes sense, or not, to cluster those businesses. This one may not make it back until October.

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