Wednesday, May 17, 2006

P&Z sets guidelines for design review

Drought tolerant landscaping among new requirements

Express Staff Writer

New design review guidelines meant to create more specific standards for developments in Hailey's various commercial zoning districts gained preliminary approval Monday from the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission.

The proposed new design review guidelines now go to the Hailey City Council for final consideration and possible approval. No date has been set for the council to begin considering the changes.

If approved by the council, the new guidelines would apply to all new development projects in Hailey's Light Industrial, Service Commercial Industrial and Technological Industrial zoning districts, as well as for commercial and mixed-use developments in the city's Business, Limited Business and Transitional zoning districts.

The new guidelines are much more specific than those currently in place, said Diane Shay, city planner for the city of Hailey.

"The ones we have right now are very broad," Shay said. "I wanted to have more specific design review guidelines in place that will help us guide development a little bit better."

"We wanted more specific things," she said.

Shay said the new design review guidelines that stand out the most for her address aspects such as building height and the use of low-impact xeriscape landscaping. Xeriscape is defined as landscaping that promotes water conservation through the thoughtful use of appropriate drought-tolerant plants. Xeriscape landscaping is most often used in arid or semi-arid climates.

Because the Hailey area falls into the latter category, promoting xeriscape landscaping is a logical decision, Shay said. "Things get pretty dry in August," Shay said.

Under the new xeriscape requirements, at least 50 percent of landscaped areas would be required to utilize drought tolerant and/or xeriscape specific plant materials.

"Hopefully the City Council will think they have a good document to work with," Shay said.

In addition to building heights and xeriscaping, the new guidelines also address building orientation, pedestrian access, snow storage, screening of off-street parking and the preservation of existing vegetation. They also encourage the use of natural daylighting, efficient lighting and windows, good ventilation and south-facing windows with eave coverage to minimize the overall energy consumption in buildings.

Perhaps most contentious Monday night was the topic of how to address building heights that reach above 30 feet in height. P&Z commissioners discussed at great length various building height-related issues such as emergency access, the effect of large buildings on human scale and the use of architectural elements like balconies, parapets and sloped roofs.

Like some of her fellow P&Z commissioners, Nancy Linscott expressed concern about over regulating certain design review aspects. Linscott said doing so can take away the ability of architects to implement creative strategies when designing buildings, something the design review guidelines are actually meant to encourage.

"I think we've very adequately covered it," she said. "Sometimes you've just got to see if it works."

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