Come, let us rezone together
I’m completely ripping off The News-Sentinel’s headline above, but it’s too good not to. (BTW: Great headline, Caleb!)
In his column today, Kevin Leininger comments on the proposed rezoning of 633 properties in a “downtown edge” zone.
On paper, perhaps, the proposed changes — intended to codify earlier downtown improvements plans — don’t seem all that consequential. It would limit the location and size of gas station/convenience stores, for example, establish guidelines for heights and setbacks, and would seek to limit common features deemed too “suburban,” such as surface parking lots and drive-through service lanes, while promoting so-called “mixed-use” projects combining housing, stores and other urban features.
But recent history shows how even seemingly benign guidelines can conflict with market decisions.
Consider planners’ preference for “pedestrian-friendly” development that eliminates parking lots between the sidewalk and door. When Subway Systems Inc. built a new restaurant on West Jefferson Boulevard earlier this year, it included a parking lot and drive-through — passing up a city grant in the process — because an earlier location had taught that foot traffic alone could not sustain the business. And when Woodson Motorsports moved to East Washington at Clay two years ago, it lost a city grant when it put a modern metallic façade on the historic brick building.
In each case, the owners decided to act in their own perceived best interest – even though those interests were not necessarily compatible with planners’ interests.
If their properties had been rezoned, however — and both are included in the proposed “downtown edge” area — those decisions could have been made more complicated.
Personally, I’d hope that such rezoning would not mandate urban-style development, but at least put it on even footing with “normal” suburban-style development. Because it seems to me that current zoning is not in any way “neutral,” despite Kevin’s perspective.
Suburban-style development, including minimum parking standards, is the only one codified, with everything else having to be submitted for “exceptional” approval. Unless I am wrong, the code the city is considering would only open a new urban-like avenue for development. Is that true?
— Photo by The News-Sentinel