BGR Suggests Trojan Horse in CZO
The Bureau of Governmental Research Suggests Serious Problems
Exist in Proposed Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
Since 2011, BGR has raised concerns with each successive draft of Article 5. While the City Planning Commission has made changes in response to some of BGR’s suggestions, our most critical concerns remain unaddressed. At this late stage of the game, with the City Council moving quickly toward final approval of the draft CZO, the prospects for creating an acceptable revision seem bleak.
For that reason, BGR recommends that the City Council eliminate Article 5. In its current form, the article puts up for grabs hundreds of pages of zoning rules that have absorbed vast amounts of civic energy and taken years to fashion. However, should the council proceed with Article 5, it should at a minimum do the following:
Eliminate the general provision that puts all zoning regulations on the bargaining table in exchange for benefits. Also eliminate the smorgasbord of potential beneficial project features to be used in exchange for zoning exceptions.
Instead, craft a set of district-specific sections setting forth the relevant challenges the city hopes to address in each area. Each section should contain:
A clear statement of intent identifying what problem the section is attempting to solve and how that problem relates to the geographic areas covered.
Strategies that flow directly from that statement.
A statement specifying which zoning rules can be bent, with a narrative explaining why exceptions to such rules relate to the stated intent and strategies. There should be clear limitations on the exceptions.
Detailed guidelines for decision-making bodies to use in determining whether the exceptions requested for a development are necessary to advance the strategy for that district category.
If the challenges and strategies to address them in a given type of zoning district cannot be clarified, the pertinent section should be struck from Article 5. The article could be amended later, if suitable strategies are created.
Make the minimum site size requirements ironclad. The language allowing exceptions to the minimum if “there are … exceptional circumstances affecting the property” should be struck. Consideration should be given to increasing the minimum site sizes, so that fewer sites across the city are thrown into play.