City aims to smooth infill process for business owners
"Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)", 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--CHEYENNE -- The city wants to make the process of infill and redevelopment of existing properties smoother for local business owners.
An ordinance that would give the city's planning department more flexibility to approve projects that don't conform to all of the city's design specifications is currently making its way through the Cheyenne City Council.
The ordinance was recommended Wednesday by the council's Public Services Committee.
The ordinance would amend the city's Unified Development Code, which regulates infill and redevelopment standards, to allow city planners to deviate from a particular standard by as much as 50 percent.
The UDC currently only gives the planning department a 10 percent window of flexibility.
The city would approve requests for nonconforming projects through a process called an "administrative review."
In a staff report, the city provided a hypothetical example of how this increased flexibility would work:
"An existing development is looking to make a building addition to the facility. ... The current parking area is separated from the public sidewalk by a 7-foot-wide landscape area. The current requirement for the landscape area is to be 10 feet from the public sidewalk.
"It is clear that widening the landscape area between the sidewalk and the parking area is not reasonable due to the lack of space on the site and substantial investment required to make such an adjustment.
"The administrative adjustment provides a clear path for staff to make the determination that the 7-foot landscape area is sufficient, even though the standard is 10 feet.
"This would be a 30 percent adjustment of the particular standard. ... This illustrates the benefit of having an administrative adjustment option and the need to have greater flexibility than 10 percent."
Infill and redevelopment projects "typically have many more constraints than do new projects on the edge of town, often due to space constraints and existing circumstances, as well as proximity to existing neighborhoods and districts," according to the staff report.
Councilman Mark Rinne said, "This is a good start. At least it is an attempt to improve the ability of developers to redevelop some of their unused buildings in the community."
Because this kind of increase in city staff's discretion to deviate from UDC standards is unprecedented, the Public Services Committee recommended adding a "sunset provision" to the ordinance.
This provision means the ordinance would expire after 18 months if it is not renewed by the City Council.
"My assumption is that the council is hopeful that this will prove to be a benefit to infill development and something that will warrant continuation beyond the sunset," city planning director Brandon Cammarata said.
Councilman Sean Allen said, "This is a pretty radical expansion to allow 50 percent from 10 percent. And the idea behind that is to help spur redevelopment. But in the case that (this has) some unintended consequences or doesn't actually work ... putting a sunset clause in would ensure that it would fall back to 10 percent."
Councilman Bryan Cook said, "Including this sunset clause keeps it on our radar and allows us to keep working on it and tweaking it, if we need to."
The full council will have its final vote on the ordinance next Monday night.
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