Wednesday, November 1, 2006

City action jolts code

Transfer of development rights system put on hold

Express Staff Writer

While approximately 25 percent of the city's entire code was amended in some way by the City Council Monday, the impact on the community could be three times that amount.

Ordinance amendments pertaining to planning and zoning regulations spell changes not only for big developers, but for property owners along the Big Wood River and environmentally friendly architects.

The replacement of the entire Community Core chapter promises even more impact.

"By changing that, we've made a huge change in the direction of our community," said Planning Director Harold Moniz.

The City Council Monday, Oct. 30, acted on the following ordinances:

· Green building amendments approved. The council enacted changes to its design review district zoning code to amend the standards for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly building design. The change does not mandate anything. Rather, it encourages architects and developers to incorporate such elements into their design, and it seeks to promote resource conservation and waste reduction, said Moniz.

"We believe this will help promote those kinds of goals," he said.

Councilman Baird Gourlay said the ordinance could mandate such action by next year.

"I would direct staff to move it in that direction as soon as they come up for air," he said.

· Amendments to the floodplain management overlay zone were approved. Changes include regulation of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers within 100 feet of the mean high water mark. It also clarifies when landscape plans are needed for repairs in the riparian zone and how construction adjacent to riparian areas should be handled.

"Education is a big component to this, but I'd like to add some teeth to the education," Moniz said. "By having language in the ordinance that regulates these activities, you put more teeth into it."

The ordinance will also encourage an additional 10 feet of building setback. The city had previously attempted to increase the riparian setback. "That proved to be politically difficult," Moniz said.

Builder Wes Nash said it will be difficult to enforce rules such as pesticide application, but new City Planner Kathy Hansen said she's already on watch.

"The sheriff is back," said Councilman Steve Shafran.

· A transfer of development rights system was postponed. The City Council determined that because the map had been changed so frequently, neither they nor local citizens would have time to adequately review it before approving it. "There's an awful lot of information that's coming at us," Gourlay said. "I don't want to spend a short amount of time making these decisions. We all believe in this strongly and will institute it."

TDRs allow owners of smaller, heritage buildings in a designated "sending" area to sell off their right to build to a maximum height or density. Property owners in a "receiving" area can buy those rights to build a larger or taller building. The goal is to offer incentives for the preservation of heritage and historic properties. The council will take up the issue of TDRs on Nov. 15. Besides approving the sending and receiving area map and determining standards for each area, the council will discuss guidelines for classifying heritage properties.

When the TDR map is finalized, the city can amend rules pertaining to hotels, which are still subject to the three-story maximum. Once the map is approved, hotels will be allowed to build to four floors in receiving areas, and perhaps five in a very few spots downtown.

· Changes to the Mountain Overlay Zone were enacted. "We're trying to strengthen the criteria in the mountain overlay zone," Moniz said. The City Council designated Knob Hill and the rock outcropping as a "significant landmark" within the city. That will help assist the Planning & Zoning Commission in evaluating projects in those areas, Moniz said. It also fills a loophole wherein duplexes had to meet standards addressing such landmarks, but single-family homes did not.

The council may later act on the P&Z's recommendation that Forest Service Park and the Reinheimer ranches near the city's southern border be designated as significant landmarks as well.

For each change, the council held a brief discussion on how the changes conformed to the comprehensive plan.

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