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Cities focus on minor issues while major issues go unresolved

paiste13

Cyburbian
Messages
231
Points
9
I work for a developer and go around and around with cities on aesthetic standards. The city claims to be progressive, support a high quality of life, and be on the cutting edge of planning yet all their planners do is enforce landscaping minimums greenspace minimums. All their projects require massive parking, huge setbacks, are unfriendly to pedestrians, etc. It's almost like no matter what we do something changes to show that "the planners had a hand in this project".

We want to move to a more urban style of development but the city, through their planning department, seems to think good planning is how the building look, not how the city interacts with itself. Any tips or advice for me?
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,560
Points
36
You've got two ways to fix a city. Top down or bottom up.

Top down means you have a councilman or some other top person's ear. Make them understand that maybe the parking is a little out of date and maybe some pedestrian access would be a good thing. Maybe target different areas of the city with overlays that focus what development should look like there (I'm in a big city, it's the only way we can get any standards that don't blanket a one size solution over the city). Hopefully the top guy will push on the planning department for a change.

The other way is get the planning director or someone to push for a code change. Not all the directors like doing it because it can open a can of worms and ruin a good thing.

Also remember, find out why the city has that code. My city has huge landscape setbacks in some areas (like 40') in certain areas with no reduction in the normal parking. It's the way we want that area developed. Too bad your development doesn't work, maybe embrace out vision. At the same time we are willing to listen to variance requests (that's a different argument).
 

paiste13

Cyburbian
Messages
231
Points
9
Also remember, find out why the city has that code. My city has huge landscape setbacks in some areas (like 40') in certain areas with no reduction in the normal parking. It's the way we want that area developed.
With all due respect, why does your city want unusable land around developments that serves no purpose, makes infrastructure installation and repair more expensive, and provides no taxable value?
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,265
Points
35
With all due respect, why does your city want unusable land around developments that serves no purpose, makes infrastructure installation and repair more expensive, and provides no taxable value?
landscape buffers do serve a purpose to give breaks in heavily commercial areas, to provide relief to an adjacent competing land use, and to add to a streetline to enclose or sometimes, make the streetline pedestrian friendly - and there are many studies to show that landscaping and street trees add value to a commercial property.

I like to have buffers be negotiated on a case by case basis myself, as sometimes they are not necessary and sometimes they should be more than the minimum - unfortunately, years of land use attorneys pushing the limits of negotiating site plans has caused many communities to place hard and fast rules for setbacks/buffers that sometimes don't make sense.

I like the idea of working with staff first - come in with a sketch that shows the project meeting the rules and then show a sketch of how you would prefer to do it including notes as to why it's better
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,560
Points
36
The part of the city that has a 40' landscape setback used to be orchards and farm land so as a nod to that the residents in the area wanted extra landscaping on commercial developments. We also make them put in orange trees which are not on our regular approved planting list. The good part, it does make a nicer looking area and we often put multi use trails in that landscape setback.
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
305
Points
14
I like to have buffers be negotiated on a case by case basis myself, as sometimes they are not necessary and sometimes they should be more than the minimum - unfortunately, years of land use attorneys pushing the limits of negotiating site plans has caused many communities to place hard and fast rules for setbacks/buffers that sometimes don't make sense.

I like the idea of working with staff first - come in with a sketch that shows the project meeting the rules and then show a sketch of how you would prefer to do it including notes as to why it's better
40 feet is kind of big. You wouldn't see that in my municipality until you were out in the rural part. We do have 35 feet in an industrial area and it gets tighter and more urban from there, all the way down to zero where there's a public sidewalk and street tree section in the ROW to bring the building up to. We allow sidewalks and multi use paths as well as stormwater treatment in those setbacks, so they often end up getting pretty well used by the development for stuff it would have had to do anyway.

Our side and rear rules are all flexible- more intense landscaping = tighter setbacks, and the more alike the uses are the closer you can go. One thing I'd like to do is get away from side setbacks with landscaping entirely in the urban part of the municipality, replacing a "green wall" with a an urban park section- so you still get the green and the shade but also better connectivity and usefulness out of the space.
 
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