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Council to consider codifying affordable housing calculations for PUDs

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by Michael Kanin

A resolution from Council Member Mike Martinez, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole on Thursday’s City Council agenda would codify one affordable housing calculation for the city’s Planned Unit Developments.


The figure proposed by the trio – a number derived from the amount of square footage a developer seeks over the allowable baseline allotment – represents the middle road solution pitched by attorney Steve Drenner as part of negotiations over a hotly contested PUD at 211 South Lamar.


Pressed for time at Tuesday’s Council work session, Council Member Bill Spelman offered a blunt summation. “We have three proposals in front of us as to the proper interpretation of the current PUD ordinance,” he said. “I will refer to them, for shorthand as the Guernsey, the Spencer, and the Drenner…This basically picks the Drenner as the winner.”


Spelman refers to numbers contained in a memo drafted by the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Director Betsy Spencer. There, Spencer illustrated three potential affordable housing fee-in-lieu calculations for 211 South Lamar developers.


The first of these came from the city’s Planning and Development Review – headed by Greg Guernsey – department where staff argued for a fee based on just 10 percent of the project’s extra square footage – a total of $43,890. Drenner’s figure was significantly more – $438,924 based on the entire amount of extra square footage planned for the development.


Spencer took another approach. She based the figures on the total square footage of the PUD – a number that would have cost developers in excess of $1.2 million. (See In Fact Daily, May 14).


Council members have yet to move on the South Lamar PUD.


Martinez’ action would circumvent future debates over how to apply the city’s PUD-embedded affordable housing formula. It would also provide significantly less than what Spencer envisioned in affordable housing dollars for a city that desperately needs them.


Still, the resolution attempts to clear waters muddied over a process that began roughly six years ago. Council Member Laura Morrison held that during stakeholder negotiations, advocates agreed to sacrifice other potential amenities for what they thought would be the calculation used by Spencer.


“One of the concerns I have about going forward and changing it without having some good discussion about how it should be changed is the fact that there was a two-year process for coming up with this and the fact of the matter is that there were some people who, throughout that process, thought that the (PUD affordable housing calculation) was exactly as the Spencer interpretation tells us – which is the way it is written,” Morrison argued. “There are folks that, as they engaged in that conversation, felt that because it was their understanding that it was the Spencer interpretation that they were able to give in on some other issues.”


Morrison told Martinez that Thursday she would “possibly” offer a friendly amendment that would bring stakeholders back together “to discuss potential amendments” to the PUD and other related issues.


Martinez took little time to let her know that he would not consider such a move friendly.


For his part, Martinez also said that he could not remember, nor could he find any evidence of, the discussions that Morrison referenced. “I being the only Council member who was involved in that on the dais today, just being bluntly honest, do not recall a single conversation about the position that some folks are taking,” he said.


Cole supported Martinez’ contention. Tovo, who served as a stakeholder during the PUD process, backed Morrison’s stand.

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