City to require developers to host workshops

Larger property developers will need to meet with members of surrounding neighborhoods before submitting an application with the city, following a change to the city’s land development code.

At its meeting Thursday, a split commission approved on second reading changes to the land development code that are aimed at getting public input into projects earlier in the development process.

The updated ordinance requires that nearby neighborhood associations and neighbors within 400 feet of the property be notified by certified mail of planned development. The city is also requiring a neighborhood workshop for residential developments with 11 or more multiple-family units before any applications are submitted.

“Getting people involved on the front end about what’s possible is the key.” Commissioner Harvey Ward said at the ordinance’s first reading on April 7. “I totally support the idea of the additional workshops.”

Developers will be required to submit a public participation report that verifies the certified letters and the workshop as part of their applications.

The workshop requirement applies to projects classified as intermediate (11-50 units) or major (51 or more units) regardless of whether the project requires a zoning category change or other variance. Development plans that required rezoning or board approval for variances were already required to hold workshops.

Major projects also will now be required to go through the added step of presenting to the Development Review Board. However, for projects in which 15 percent or more of the units are designated for lower income households, Development Review Board review is only required when the developers are requesting some sort of variance.

Although the mayor and most commissioners voiced support for the additional notification and workshop requirements, both Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos voted against the ordinance on second reading.

Making the major projects go before the Development Review Board was the portion of the changes that split the commission, 4-2, on the second reading vote. Poe and Hayes-Santos said the additional review step would increase the cost of building and slow down the pace of housing development.

“[The ordinance changes] make housing more expensive and delays new housing getting built,” Hayes-Santos said at the April 7 meeting. “It goes against recommendations from affordable housing experts. I believe this is a step backwards to making housing more accessible and affordable in our community.”

The changes go into effect on Oct. 1.

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