BIZ

SOMERTON IN MIDST OF DOWNTOWN EVOLUTION

- By Hector Tapia, City of Somerton

SOMERTON IS GOING through an evolution of culture and land developmen­t changes. Its richness in history is there to explore and to celebrate. Surrounded by prime agricultur­e land, downtown Somerton is an ideal area for expansion, planning inward instead of absorbing agricultur­e land from its surroundin­gs. Many locals miss some of the activities that occurred along Main Street, right at the heart of downtown Somerton. Others who have lived in Somerton for over 40 years recall activities on

Main Street. Through policy and plan implementa­tion such as the Somerton Redevelopm­ent Plan and the Main Street Redesign Project, the City has welcomed new businesses along Main Street. More are under design. A smart city growth policy is a focus for the next few years. Older existing neighborho­ods and the Main Street Corridor are ideal areas for infill developmen­t.

The Entertainm­ent District, a part of the City’s recent City Council-approved “Infill Incentive Overlay District,” allows City staff to offer incentives for new or existing businesses and to encourage mixed use developmen­ts along the Main Street Corridor. As an introducti­on, below are some parts of the guidelines that relate to the “Entertainm­ent District.”

Creating an Entertainm­ent District

Recent proposals and physical developmen­t indicate that downtown Somerton is ready to make the shift from a service-based corridor to an entertainm­ent destinatio­n. This plan will target the creation of an entertainm­ent district to serve as the anchor and focal point of downtown Somerton.

Aesthetic Quality Consistenc­y

Some projects gracefully enhance the surroundin­g area, others are aesthetica­lly incompatib­le with their neighborho­od and can negatively compromise the existing patterns. Using the design guidelines of the 2013 Plan, this plan will orchestrat­e the creation of a sensible aesthetic pattern for new developmen­t and redevelopm­ent in the downtown area. The plan offers examples of architectu­re designs and wall signage ideas that would complement the historic theme as reflected in Somerton’s history. Although with simple details, façade improvemen­ts that add special lighting, projected sign styles, colored building canopies, and sidewalk landscapin­g, meet the intent of this plan as a pedestrian environmen­t along Main Street.

Although with simple details, facade improvemen­ts that add special lighting, projected sign styles, colored building canopies, and sidewalk landscapin­g, meet the intent of this plan as a pedestrian environmen­t along Main Street.

Allowing MixedUse and Mixing Uses

Mixed Use Zoning grants tremendous opportunit­y to property owners and developers alike. Several Main Street properties are in fact already mixed-use commercial and residentia­l. This plan greatly extends the benefits of mixeduse to all of downtown beyond Main Street and establishe­s a framework for mixing uses not previously allowed such as corner markets and cafes within residentia­l areas. To address all opportunit­ies identified, especially Infill Developmen­t in the urban core, this plan updates the boundaries of the Infill Incentive District, creates a new

zoning designatio­n known as “Infill Incentive Overlay”, and creates a new Infill Incentive Package for the benefit of properties within said Infill Incentive District for the purpose of expediting the revitaliza­tion of downtown via the facilitati­on of Infill Developmen­t.

The Entertainm­ent District area is bounded by Somerton Avenue to the east, Cesar Chavez Avenue to the west, Cano Street to the south, and Spring Street to the north.

Property and business owners located within the entertainm­ent district, starting February 5, 2021, will be able to take advantage of applicable incentives to improve their building façade, for building remodels, or for mixeduse proposals. These are the incentives under the

IIOP and applicable to the Entertainm­ent District:

Adjusted Developmen­t Standards: Adjusted developmen­t standards will allow developers to maximize the use of the lots platted under obsolete subdivisio­n standards creating a more favorable environmen­t for new constructi­on without requiring variances.

Compatible Use Incentive: This incentive allows the healthy mixing of uses in the IIOP Boundary area through the rolling back of use zoning restrictio­ns and allows certain compatible uses picked from the underlying base zoning districts on any parcel with the Infill Incentive Overlay Zoning Designatio­n as an alternativ­e to the traditiona­l rezoning process.

Alley Paving Waiver: Alley access is permitted in all properties abutting a public alleyway. Alley paving requiremen­t is entirely waived for all properties with the Infill Incentive Overlay Zoning Designatio­n thus assisting Infill Developmen­t and eliminatin­g a burden for the potential developmen­t and allowing more flexibilit­y.

Water Retention Waiver: On-site stormwater retention requiremen­ts are entirely waived for most properties in the Infill Incentive Overlay Area located within the Entertainm­ent District. Stormwater may be discharged onto the street or storm channel to flow to designated municipal retention areas.

Accessory Dwelling Incentive: The minimum lot size requiremen­t for accessory dwelling units is significan­tly reduced. Accessory Dwelling Units are now permitted on any lot of at least 6000 SF within the IIOP boundaries. ADUs may be used as rental units as, if the owner of the property resides on site.

Parking Requiremen­t Reduction: Minimum parking requiremen­ts for all properties with the Infill Incentive Overlay Zoning designatio­n may be reduced up to 50% from the number of spots required by the Somerton Zoning Ordinance for the proposed use.

Historic Restoratio­n Incentive: Building Permit and Plan Review Fees are reduced by 30% for projects involving the restoratio­n/remodeling of buildings pre-dating the year 1950. Project must comply with all IIOP design and landscapin­g requiremen­ts.

Façade Improvemen­t Loan: A no-interest, no-down payment short term loan of up to $10,000 is available to all properties with the Infill Incentive Overlay Designatio­n looking to improve their building / residence facade.

Landscape Requiremen­ts Adjustment: Minimum Landscapin­g Requiremen­ts for all properties with the Infill Incentive Overlay Zoning Designatio­n are significan­tly reduced with greater emphasis given to shade trees, street trees, and growing the city’s urban forest canopy.

Adaptive Reuse: Building Permit and Plan Review Fees are reduced by 30% for projects involving the retrofit of an existing building to establish a new use or Mixed-Use developmen­t. Project must comply with all IIOP design and landscapin­g requiremen­ts.

For more informatio­n about the Infill Incentive Overlay Plan and for more detail about the “Entertainm­ent District”, please contact Hector Tapia, Economic Developmen­t Director at 928-722-7390. ✶

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