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Thread: Multi-family development

  1. #1
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    Multi-family development

    I just received a notice in the mail that developer of the land just next to my new home is trying to get it re-zoned to allow multi-family residential development. I am invited to a public hearing in a few weeks, but don't even know where to begin to make a case against this. Does anyone have any experience fighting a similar re-zoning regulation? Do I need a strong case to support my reasons, or is a decrease in my property value enough of a case? My biggest concern is that we are in a new neighborhood with only about 12 out of 40 lots sold at this time, and therefore that is the maximum number of people that could go to the hearing to protest. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I would suggest going to the public meetings where it is on the agenda and in a very civil manner, speak your mind when the floor is opened for public hearings/comment. Constructive commentary is always the best. Also contact YOUR representative on the governing body that makes the decision. Some states have processes where if there is a petition (called a remonstrance) signed by a certain percentage of the neighbors, the number of city council votes needed to approve the rezoning increases, but in the end the final yes/no decision is 100% political.

    The notice to landowners within a certain radius that you received is a part of the rezoning process.

    Contact your local planning department for the specific nitty-gritty.

    That said, multi-family is not necessarily bad and the units may well be critically needed in your local market. If they are done correctly, they can be an real asset - so by all means, go in with an open mind (disclosure point - yes, I currently rent).

    Mike

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Why on earth do you have reason to suspect this will decrease your property value? What empirical evidence do you have? Multi-family does not implicitly mean low income housing. Some multi-family units in my area are worth more than the neighboring single family units. Educate yourself before whining.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Anyone can voice opinions at zoning public hearings. In Kansas, property owners within 200 feet of a proposal can initiate an official "protest petition". If a majority of those owners object, it takes a three-fourths majority of the city council to over-ride the citizens' official protest. Those owners within 200 feet are mailed hearing notices. This is a process set up under the state statutes.

    However, the public hearing is for anyone with an interest in the proposal. Talk with the city staff about the project before the hearing. Find out exactly what the project entails. Then form your opinion on the matter. Staff will also explain the process for you. We staff people are there to help. We assist developers with their proposals; we help neighbors who wish to object. Ask for a copy of the staff report on the case when it is available. These reports most often contain the points at issue.

    You can mention "decrease in property values": most everybody else does. The phrase has little effect because it is used so often with no proof. (On the other side, most all developers mention "increase to the local tax base"...with the same effect.)

    There was a KS court case that list the criteria to consider with zoning change cases. Most all planning commissions follow those, and they are frequently found in the local zoning ordinance. We frequently call these the "Golden rules", as the court case was Golden v. City of Overland Park.

    Ask to see what the comprehensive plan has to say about your area. That has considerable bearing on the process.

    You also have the right to be represented by an attorney or planning consultant if you so desire.
    Last edited by mike gurnee; 29 Dec 2008 at 7:25 AM. Reason: elaboration

  5. #5
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post

    You can mention "decrease in property values": most everybody else does. The phrase has little effect because it is used so often with no proof. (On the other side, most all developers mention "increase to the local tax base"...with the same effect.)

    Ask to see what the comprehensive plan has to say about your area. That has considerable bearing on the process.

    You also have the right to be represented by an attorney or planning consultant if you so desire.
    The other standard, patented, knee-jerk objections are traffic, traffic, traffic, safety, traffic, density, density, density, density, safety, density, density, safety, safety, traffic, traffic, traffic, yada. There is zero empirical evidence that multifam lowers property values, esp in new developments.

    That said, the Comprehensive Plan should give guidance to the area and should inform decision-makers. That is: if the comp plan says multifam is OK, then I suspect the rezone likely will go through if the decision is made fairly.

    The community's voice should be heard. Developers often try to get higher density to make more money and it is OK to say no to them, as it is their job to ask for everything so they can make money. But if the comp plan says multifam is OK, then the rezone should happen, in my view.

    It is hard to give better advice with such limited information given.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I've tried to play fair in my reviews and find evidence supporting both sides of the traffic, density, crime, and value talking points. Unfortunately, there is no concrete evidence that can show Multi-family housing or higher density housing to be a detrimental (or statistically beneficial). Emotionally, those arguments carry a lot of weight with some commissions and councils-- even if unfounded.

    Off-topic:
    I've had plans in the past where the land use was residential and the developer asked for commercial zoning and I recommended denial and the council approved commercial. Next case, land use is commercial, developer asks for commerical zoning, I recommend approval and the council denied commercial. The Plan is only as valuable as the people who adopt it and use it believe it is.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jamiebolen View post
    Do I need a strong case to support my reasons, or is a decrease in my property value enough of a case? My biggest concern is that we are in a new neighborhood with only about 12 out of 40 lots sold at this time, and therefore that is the maximum number of people that could go to the hearing to protest.
    Actually, the applicant would normally be expected to have a "strong case" for the rezoning. They have a kind of "burden of proof", but you should still try to construct an argument for what you want, and a counter-argument for what they want. It is perfectly acceptable and even expected that you and the Commission/Council would be critical of their arguments, assumptions, information, and projections for the future. Ask that they back up their information and claims with data and good planning practices.

    Also, in every case I know of, a public hearing is open to literally everyone, both those who were and were not notified. So, invite anyone you can find to attend and participate. People who live across town, outside of town, anybody. The Commission and Council may give more weight to the comments and opinions of those most directly affected (nearby property owners), but anyone can offer an opinion or make a comment. Most commissioners and councilmembers I have worked with prefer more comments and more people commenting to silence.
    JOE ILIFF
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    The poster didn't say what the property is currently zoned. If it's Ag, then traffic is fair to argue. If it's downzoning from commercial, something that we're dealing with here a lot, then traffic is a non-issue, as multi-family residential will generate less traffic than commercial.

    The literature that I've read, and it's out there, indicates that the mere presence of multi-family will NOT lower surrounding property values. What tends to happen is that the rate of appreciation on surrounding SF will lower for 1-2 years, then return to pre MF rates. At no point in any test study in any source did surrounding SF res decrease in value.

    However, it can be demonstrated that continueing MF development can have an effect. There seems to be a 20% threshold that, once crossed, turns an area from SF to MF. A single development won't come near that threshold.

    The keys to the development are the ongoing management and the aesthetics. If the management allows that development to go to Hell, then the resulting crime and blight could have negative impacts on the surrounding property value. That has been shown to happen, so getting some kind of maintenance agreement as a condition of rezoning approval is a good idea.

    Of not a great of concern, but still within the realm of possibility if you're arguing against, if the developer puts cheap aluminum siding-clad units next to brick facade homes, then he's degradating the character of the area. Stress to the Planning Commission (or whoever) that the aesthetic character of the area MUST be respected during the development plan phase of the project. I note that this is not a rezoning issue, but I also know darn well that subjective, emotional arguements are more persuasive to a public board or commission than an objective, reasoned one.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Property values will decrease (in addition to Coragus' stated reasons) only due to poor public perception and residents trying to move away from it (increased sales = lower prices and value decreases). Perhaps you could invite the multifamily development into your HOA/neighborhood organization and begin a neighborhood plan. If it works out well, you can still have an outstanding community that could meet the housing needs in every phase of life a person might be in, and then they could just "move up" through the neighborhood. Yes, I understand the negative implications that multifamily housing could have on your home. However, it will only be worse if you work diligently to exclude them and react harshly to what could be a beneficial asset to your neighborhood. It is also important to remember that nearly everyone rents at some point in life, even most current owners. I'd even give it 80-20 odds you rented at some point as well.

  10. #10
    In addition to what others have posted, I would add:

    The application and supporting materials are public record so make time to go to the planning office and speak to the planner that will be making the staff presentation on the proposal. (Call first to make an appointment, if necessary.) Review the file for the site plan, drainage plans, drives, landscaping, buffering and architectural elevations (e.g. what the facades will look like/what materials will be used). Ask them to make or purchase a copy of the materials that interest you.

    Generally: what will the units cost to build? What will rents be? What is the breakdown of the number of bedrooms (lots of 1 br = usually an older clientele, lots of 3 br = families). What amenities will there be (pool? covered parking? garages? meeting/flex space? open space for passive/active recreation? walking trails?). You can get a good sense of the quality of development by the amenities, but it isn't always a 'more is better' equation. Will construction be phased? If so, how?

    Meet with your neighbors to gauge their interest/concern about the proposal. (Consider contacting the owner/s of the unimproved lots in your subdivision as well: they certainly should have an interest in the proceedings.) If you are not going to be represented by an attorney or planning consultant, designate someone in your group to be your spokesperson. Generally, zoning is not by referendum - in other words, it shouldn't matter how many people show up in opposition, but rather whether the developer meets statutory requirements for approval. Find out what those statutory requirements are (the staff planner can help you) and politely argue your point/s based on those requirements. Try not to repeat things already told to the Board/Commission, but feel free to revisit topics that haven't been adequately covered.

    Multi-family land uses are a good transitional land use between uses of differing intensities (commercial from single-family, for example) and as a buffer between major arterial land uses and residential streets.

    Hopefully some of this is useful.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  11. #11
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Are these multi-family units rental? Everyone seems to be assuming that, but it would be interesting to know. We could just be talking about some for-sale duplexes(where each side is sold to a different party) or condominiums/attached townhomes, which generally function about the same as detached SFHs, and rarely affect property values one way or the other.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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