Blogger Responds To More City Arguments Defending UR3 Density Increase

The city has offered more arguments in defense of the Camiros consulting firm’s UDO draft, specifically in reference to reducing the lot sizes in the UR3 zone.

Unfortunately part of the problem is that Camiros never formally addressed why they were recommending the most obviously controversial changes to the city’s zoning ordinances. No formal documents explaining why the changes were necessary were provided to our community.

Basically Camiros delivered the first draft of the UDO to the city and produced a slide presentation for the Council and three workshops. What little we know about the reasons for their changes were elicited at one of their presentations during the question and answer period (truncated as it was by the lack of time Camiros allocated).

It is sadly apparent that Camiros ignored the nature of what a public document should be. As the UDO will have a major impact on the city’s neighborhoods and greenbelt and how our land use boards operate among other things, it should be a document that is developed with significant citizen input. It is not unreasonable to assume that the crafting of a UDO would include developing a plan as to how the community will be educated regarding its content and what vehicles will be created for the citizens to communicate to the city government any changes that they view as necessary. The need to design this process was apparently ignored by Camiros.

Instead, Camiros and the city’s Planning Department crafted a 288 page UDO draft entirely out of the public view. They delivered the draft to the Council and in a process that was more symbolic than substantive delivered three brief “workshops” meant to inform the public. The workshops were a poor attempt at creating the appearance of educating the public.

In response to public demand for more and clearer information about what was in the UDO, the city began to schedule additional public meetings and develop more user friendly materials that Camiros had failed to provide. The city, however, found itself in a bind. It was being asked to explain the purpose of these changes while also being asked to solicit public input for changing the document. The result was that the city at times appeared to be advocating for the UDO proposals while trying to present itself as a neutral body willing to entertain any and all proposed changes to the draft. It is small wonder that an honest effort by the city to address people’s criticisms has tended to create more suspicion rather than alleviate people’s fears.

With that in mind, here are the latest arguments put forward to justify reducing lot sizes in UR3. It should be noted that similar proposals to reduce lot sizes and change setbacks, etc. are being proposed for most of the other areas of the city. Residents of the UR3 district have so far been the most vocal in opposing these changes and these rationales have been put forward in response to their persistent questions as to why these changes were being proposed. It is not clear whether these arguments would also be put forward as justifications for the other changes throughout the city.

The increase in density for UR3 is consistent with carrying out the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

This argument asserts that the Comprehensive Plan intends for the city to become increasingly dense as one progresses from the outer greenbelt to the city core. The city argues that making UR3 even denser by diminishing lot sizes would implement this approach.

This is an interesting argument in that it appears to contradict Camiros’ public comments which sharply minimized the potential impact that reducing lots sizes would have on increasing density. This argument is addressed in an earlier blog post but briefly, Camiros selectively focused on the few remaining parcels of land large enough to allow for subdivisions. Comparing the number of lots these could produce using the current required 6,600 square feet with the proposed reduced size of 5,000 they came up with a number for new lots that they characterized as insignificant.

Now the public is being told that reducing lot sizes is a virtue that should be maximized in order to implement the Comprehensive Plan’s goal of directing increased density in the area closest to downtown.

Reducing The Minimum Lot Size For Two Family Homes Will Implement the Comprehensive Plan’s Goal Of More Affordable Housing

While the construction of more two family homes may produce less expensive housing per square foot, it remains to be seen what the impact of this change would have materially on “affordable” housing. This kind of promised effect needs some kind of analysis in terms of both what “affordability” means and what kind of scale can reasonably be expected in terms of future housing. In other words, there needs to be some sort of analysis done to document how much reducing lot sizes for two family houses would actually address the need for affordable housing. So far this has not been produced.

3 thoughts on “Blogger Responds To More City Arguments Defending UR3 Density Increase”

  1. I would ask the Administrator of Planning and Economic Development for the number of existing affordable housing units that presently exist throughout the city. On its face, it would seem a simple task given the volumes of information gathered over the decades, but conversely and more difficult, would be the count of all of the illegally non-compliant, some non-conforming and some pre-existing apartments that are never counted for the reason being they are purposefully under reported.

    Several year ago, the push for workforce housing was driven by a user need for and a desire by developers to construct new structures, mostly on one side of our city. Unwilling to recognize the local college’s reigning in of their students back to its campus at least till their senior year, resulting in the availability of potential affordable housing units scattered throughout the city (not only in UR-3 neighborhoods). It is a well-known fact that the income from four students and 8 cars would be greater than a rental to a family of four or less with 2 cars. Most all these student apartments go unfilled.

    The Stonequest parcel once dedicated to its neighborhood as open space its parklike setting with the construction of the multi-story tower. This satisfied the density formula required by zoning, but today after some legislative moves, its land becomes even denser.

    If it is not to be considered a taking from those invested property-owning residents, why didn’t the consultant and managers be more up front regarding the future of these UR-3 neighborhoods that currently have a say before our city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on all matters that might alter community improvements and additions?

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