Item 39 on the City Council agenda

I was wondering what folks here think about item 39 on tomorrow’s agenda

39.Approve a resolution initiating an amendment to City Code Chapter 25-2 relating to approval requirements for Planned Unit Development zoning cases.
(Notes: SPONSOR: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo CO 1: Council Member Leslie
Pool CO 2: Council Member Ann Kitchen CO 3: Council Member Ora Houston )

It appears this is just a way to stop the Grove from happening and stop future attempts in the city to add affordable housing and abundant housing. It’s unfortunate that some council members want to stop affordable housing initiatives.

I understand how many neighbors have latched onto this item in the name of fairness and equality, but I believe this resolution is purely an attempt at limiting density and blocking changes at very specific development sites. This resolution is an attempt to shift the power from the majority of Council to the minority.

This language is what concerns me the most:

The City Manager and the Planning Commission should consider and may recommend other ideas or solutions that might help address the discrepancy in the process between zoned and unzoned land.

Why am I concerned with that sentence?
Because it’s a step towards granting valid petition rights to neighbors that live next to unzoned land.

Why should unzoned land be treated differently from zoned land?
The State has complete control over what happens to its land. They can build giant office towers or a bunch of ugly buildings without any windows. Essentially, their “zoning” is unlimited because the City can not restrict them. The individuals that live next to State-owned land should know this. They bought into their situation knowing the State, especially in situations where the land is empty, could decide to build anything they want to build.

Zoned land is very different. We have land that is set to be homes, commercial businesses, or other uses. Property owners have a general sense how the land will be used because it’s limited by zoning. When the time comes to REzone the property, a minority of the property owners in a limited area surrounding the property can participate in the valid petition process and force a 3/4 vote at Council. If a developer can’t get the 3/4 vote, they can at least build something on the land.

What would happen if we allowed valid petitions for unzoned land?
I see two scenarios:

  1. State-owned land would be worthless because nothing would be built. Based on the locations of the State properties that may go up for sale, 100% of them would end up with valid petitions. A minority of property owners will have complete power to block change (because we know there will always be a minority that wants to avoid change at all costs). From their actions on other valid petition cases, I don’t see Tovo, Pool, Houston, or Kitchen voting with the supermajority.
    The State will probably want to avoid making their land worthless so they’ll find some workaround to attach high price tags to the land. Do we really want to see scenarios where the State sells off 200 year ground leases and oversees the land use?

  2. Realizing the neighbors will be most afraid of density, developers will avoid valid petition fights by proposing projects that are filled with single family homes.

I want to see fairness and equality too. To achieve that, we must recognize that zoned and unzoned land cases aren’t equal.


If I understand it correctly, they can’t really do anything about zoning The Grove at this point, but yes, it is meant to stop future developments. Very unfortunate.

I think Natalie’s assessment is spot-on. I would also add that the PUD process is an excellent way to leverage developer resources to achieve greater density, a better mixture of compatible land uses, and more public amenities. Tovo’s proposal limits our flexibility in pursuing the long-term goals outlined in the City’s comprehensive plan - the exact opposite policy tack we should be taking. It completely undermines the rationale behind PUD designation in the first place.

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