Members of the development review board are charged with following the city’s land development regulations, whether they agree with them or not. Most of the time.
Last week, board members came out opposed to the proposed elimination of minimum parking standards citywide.
Board member Frank Kochman, who shared his views with the city council last month and wrote an opinion piece in The Other Paper, drafted a letter to the city council in opposition for the board to review during “Other Business,” at its meeting on Sept. 4.
All seven members signed the letter, which will be shared with council prior to the Sept. 16 public hearing when the amendment will be considered.
The proposed change, which had been finessed by the planning commission over the course of two years, received positive feedback at the commission’s public hearing on Aug. 13 from members of the development community and residents. Those who are charged with enforcing the regulations, on the other hand, were not convinced.
Under current regulations, the DRB can waive up to 25 percent of the applicable parking requirement.
“I understand why this is desirable…but eliminating the minimum parking standards, in my opinion, has some unintended consequences,” stated Matt Cota, the board’s chair, noting potential negative impacts on neighboring businesses.
“I prefer a compromise that gives us more latitude when it comes to parking standards,” he said.
“Neighborhoods will also be affected,” member Jim Langan added. “Any residential neighborhood that’s near any commercial area, cars are just going to go there. That’s what’s happening in Burlington. That’s what will happen here.”
Proponents said that eliminating the minimum parking requirements would, in fact, encourage people to bike or walk more. Member Brian Sullivan would counter that not everyone has that option.
“I couldn’t get past the fact that there are people who are physically incapable of walking or biking,” he said. “The inflexibility of this standard and this idea that the population is so homogeneous that we could impose one solution on everybody – especially at the expense of people with disabilities – just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Mark Behr, the longest-sitting member of the board, had Cota jot his signature down on the council letter on his behalf, as he called in via phone conference.
“I agree with the premise of it; it’s a difficult issue,” he said. “You want to be progressive, but you also have to be realistic.”
The public hearing is on Monday, Sept. 16 at city hall.
Garden Street and Cheesefactory Road
The board closed a preliminary and final plat subdivision application from the Snyder Braverman Development Company making way for a 106-unit residential project on Garden Street behind Healthy Living. Garden Street, which ends at the juncture of Pier 1 Imports and Healthy Living, will be built out to connect to Market Street as another building block of the city center vision.
Since the project is in Form Based Code City Center District, the application for the project itself will be reviewed administratively. The review board reviews subdivision applications to ensure that the lots are legal and developable.
The plan is to subdivide 21.74 acres of land between Garden Street and Market Street into five lots of 0.42 acres, 1.35 acres, 1.89 acres, 5.86 acres and 12.22 acres. The project would be phased between the 0.42 acre and 1.89 acre lots.
Over at 47 Cheesefactory Rd. in the Southeast Quadrant – Natural Resource Protection district, the board reviewed a sketch plan from Tyler Maynard to subdivide an approximately 69-acre parcel into four lots of 66.1 acres, 0.8 acres, 0.8 acres and 1.1 acres. A single-family home will be constructed on each of the first three lots for a total of three homes, which will be clustered together. The last lot would be used to construct a private access road.
The unbuilt portion of the larger lot, which spans over 60 acres, will be conserved. After discussion with the board, the plan shifted to subdividing three lots and turning the fourth area into an easement. There were a few abutters that were opposed, particularly to the access road location.
“I’d be opposed to a lot 4 or an easement on the road or anything that breaks up the grassland,” said Anders Solberg of Cheese Factory Lane. “I think a road there would cause water problems and it breaks up the expanded grassland more than it needs to.”
He proposed using an already approved right of way on Cheese Factory Lane as an alternative.
Since the application was a sketch plan, no formal decision was made by the board. The next phase will occur at a date to-be-determined.
The next development review board meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 17, at city hall.