Following on the heels of its Feb. 19 discussion of a master plan/planned unit development/subdivision project, a structural overhaul to the land development regulations, the planning commission continued its discussion last week around citywide parking standards, subdivision administration and enforcement, building typologies, and citywide street types.
The project, which has been in progress since 2016, looks at how the regulations manage these areas of planning and helps shape the look and feel of the community. Completion of this project is also newly-identified as one of the major themes under Interim Zoning.
The consulting team completed the Phase I report in August 2016 and contains different potential planned unit development types that could be deployed in different areas of the city. The project is in Phase II, which looks at developing the review criteria and function for how these planned unit development (PUD) types will work, as well as designs that would apply, such as street types, building types, and open spaces. Additionally, the team is reviewing underlying zoning districts and ensuring they line up where different PUD types should apply.
Circling back to the previous week’s discussion of parking standards, the commission considered staff’s recommendation to eliminate minimum parking standards. In doing so, the effort should help reduce the amount of paved surfaces that could be created in the city. This prompted a conversation of whether there should be requirements for pervious (allowing water to pass through) pavers or other pervious parking treatments,
The city’s stormwater standards, which were amended in 2014, focuses more on the outcome – or performance standards – and not on which specific stormwater tools should be implemented. Pervious parking alone would not change the volume or treatment of stormwater, staff advised.
“It’s unclear to me if saying, ‘we’re going to require you to do pervious pavement,’ is actually getting us something that’s much better,” said Chair Jessica Louisos, who works as a water resource engineer. “If you put the parking in, it is required to infiltrate – whether that’s underneath the parking lot, a rain garden, a gravel wetland, or a filtering system of some kind.”
Planning staff also met with Tom DiPietro and Dave Wheeler from the city’s stormwater services division for insight.
“Their concern around this is that if it is not well managed, then it will result in less water quality, than, say, a rain garden,” said Paul Conner, director of planning and zoning. He mentioned patios and walkways as suggested areas to require or incentivize, as they receive less use.
“They are trying to come up with some incentives,” he added. “Perhaps some credit for stormwater bills if you’re a large commercial entity, for going to trainings on how to best take care of systems. Another tool could be, above a certain amount, going to training is a requirement of our regulations. They’ve found that some of the most significant water quality problems that we have are ones where the system is great, but it’s not being managed correctly. It’s getting over-salted, or something is happening to it such that the system, the way it’s designed, isn’t working the way it should be, and it’s going into our water system.”
The commission will consider options around pervious solutions as a second phase of the parking requirements.
Following this, the planning commission combed through newly-drafted subdivision standards, which have been prepared from the city’s consulting team, Sharon Murray of Front Porch Community Planning & Design and Mark Kane of SE Group. Having refreshed subdivision standards is necessary in the context of creating new standards and typologies for PUDs, staff shared.
Subdivision is the act of dividing land into pieces that are easier to sell or otherwise develop. A planned unit development is a building and regulatory tool used to provide more creativity in the planning and design process.
“What Sharon is recommending for a straight subdivision is that it’s much tighter as to when you can get a waiver,” Conner said of “waiver authority,” drafted language. “The whole idea being is if you really want to be flexible within the standards, then go be a PUD. Otherwise, we want it this way. This creates very limited circumstances.”
As for building typologies, commissioners had a deeper review at its previous meeting, but they briefly reviewed an apartment building typology and confirmed what they are aiming to achieve on a broader scale.
“You’re wanting to principally use this as a way to create transitions between neighborhoods and not focus so much on the individual architectural details,” Conner confirmed with commissioners.
“We’d like to give this over to Mark Kane and have them massage something that’s more of a layout, refine some of the text, and build this into where we think you are.”
The commission wrapped up with citywide street types, which Conner reviewed with the Bike and Pedestrian Committee. The feedback from the committee was that there were too many types, so planning staff removed some of them. They will take the most typical streets and then break them into their urban environment and their more suburban and rural environments, Conner said.
More energy needs to be focused on new streets and less time trying to figure out what to do with streets – like the south end of Spear Street or Fayette Roa– on a case-by-case basis. he added.
“That’s where there ought to be a public project like a scoping study that comes up with a solution with the roads that we got,” he said. “This really focuses more on when a new street is designed, and most of those are going to be neighborhood streets, support streets, and maybe an industrial access road. When they’re new streets, how do we want them designed?”
The planning commission will continue this ongoing project at future meetings.
For complete information, visit the city website, www.southburlingtonvt.gov, and select “Project & Studies” under the Planning and Zoning tab.