City plan­ners seek bal­ance on re­zon­ing

Col­lege Av­enue pro­posal goes back to plan­ning stage

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN

FAYETTEVILLE — A pro­posal to re­zone a stretch of Col­lege Av­enue will go back to the draw­ing board so city plan­ners can try to strike a bal­ance be­tween what neigh­bors want and stan­dards for ap­pro­pri­ate de­vel­op­ment.

The Or­di­nance Re­view Com­mit­tee, con­sist­ing of half the City Coun­cil, made rec­om­men­da­tions Mon­day that would bring the pro­posal back to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Plan­ners first pre­sented a pro­posal to re­zone Col­lege Av­enue from Maple to North streets in April. The idea was to have a nicer-look­ing Col­lege Av­enue that would go with the side­walk im­prove­ment project hap­pen­ing now.

The pro­posal changed sig­nif­i­cantly as it went up the rungs of pub­lic fo­rum. The ques­tion of whether to cre­ate a light ur­ban thor­ough­fare zon­ing district even­tu­ally came to the coun­cil. The new zon­ing district would limit build­ing height to 45 feet, or about four sto­ries, rather than the 75 feet now al­lowed. A pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion of the

pro­posal al­lowed 84-foot tall build­ings.

The com­mit­tee opted not to cre­ate a district but change the code to ad­dress neigh­bors’ con­cerns. Dozens of neigh­bors who ex­pressed their feel­ings to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion said they didn’t want large, stu­dent-oc­cu­pied apart­ments loom­ing over their homes. Many wor­ried a heav­ily pop­u­lated com­plex would bring zoom­ing cars, noise and safety is­sues to their neigh­bor­hoods.

Al­der­man Matthew Petty said the city can’t tell devel­op­ers they’re not al­lowed to build for stu­dents.

“I think it gets dan­ger­ously close to talk­ing about hav­ing the ‘wrong el­e­ment’ in your neigh­bor­hood,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about pre­vent­ing stu­dent hous­ing like that. But, we can talk about what makes some

of the more no­table ex­am­ples of stu­dent hous­ing in our com­mu­nity prob­lem­atic and try to reg­u­late those things.”

The com­mit­tee dis­cussed cre­at­ing a sys­tem in which devel­op­ers could build three-story build­ings by right, but any­thing above would re­quire a “re­tail-ready” ground floor. “Re­tail-ready” would mean a higher ceil­ing, up to 25 feet, with plenty of space for peo­ple to move around. Any­thing more than 25 feet would cut into the sec­ond floor and so on.

Petty, Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Alli Quin­lan and City

Plan­ning Di­rec­tor An­drew Gar­ner will write some of the finer de­tails. The in­cen­tive-based sys­tem would dis­suade devel­op­ers from mak­ing build­ings that don’t in­te­grate well with the sur­round­ings. Petty used Gather Dick­son and the Academy at Frisco as ex­am­ples of stu­dent hous­ing that res­i­dents usu­ally point to.

“Long an­swer short, those projects would be so rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent as to be un­rec­og­niz­able if they were to come back through un­der what I’m talk­ing about,” he said.

The com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended chang­ing build­ing height mea­sure­ment in the code from feet to sto­ries. The change would give ar­chi­tects more flex­i­bil­ity in de­sign, Gar­ner said. He used as an ex­am­ple a var­ied sky­line ver­sus flat roofs over rows of build­ings.

The coun­cil will take the re­zon­ing pro­posal off the ta­ble and place it back on the agenda Tues­day. Al­der­man Justin Ten­nant will give the full coun­cil the com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions and re­quest to give the item back to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. A sub­com­mit­tee of the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion likely will iron out more de­tails be­fore the full com­mis­sion takes on the pro­posal again, City At­tor­ney Kit Wil­liams said.

File Photo/NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Luke Gil­patrick with Fayetteville’s Trans­porta­tion Di­vi­sion uses a ce­ment cut­ter April 4 on Col­lege Av­enue. The work is part of Phase II for com­plet­ing the im­prove­ment project on the west side of Col­lege Av­enue be­tween North and Maple streets.

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