METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A group aiming to craft a set of regulations to spur economic development downtown got its first look Thursday night at a proposed set of zoning laws creating a new district.
The proposed regulations, drafted by planners from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, set design standards, parking requirements, dimension benchmarks, density standards and open space requirements.
The group considering the zoning changes, the Downtown Study Committee, has held a series of meetings this spring to discuss the types of uses are wanted downtown and what such development should look like.
The committee spent most of its meeting Thursday night wading through an updated table of uses that spelled out what would be allowed in the new district by right, what would require a special permit and what would be prohibited outright.
Mark Racicot and Cynthia Wall, the two planners from the MAPC, said they reworked some of the definitions in the zoning code according to feedback from committee members and members of the public. One of the changes was to break hotels and motels, which are currently grouped together under a single zoning definition, into two separate new definitions.
Hotels, under the proposed zoning, would be allowed by right downtown, while motels would be prohibited. City Councilor Joseph Delano and City Council President Patricia Pope, both members of the study committee, said they were concerned about ceding control over a hotel project, which could be large and change the landscape significantly downtown.
“I have a little angst that we are going to allow those without a special permit,” Pope said. Delano suggested having the City Council act in some sort of a site plan review capacity, as it is doing with the large Forest Park mixed-use project on the west side. Racicot and Wall said they would continue to work on the language.
The new zoning would also change dimension requirements downtown, allowing for buildings to be closer to each other and closer to the street. The zoning would require a development to have a minimum of 25 feet of frontage, and would allow buildings to be built up against one another, unless they stood next to a residential lot. In that case, the building would have to stay 10 feet from the property line.
The zoning sets a minimum setback of 10 feet, except along Main Street where the setback will be zero.
The committee went back and forth on the height requirements included in the proposed zoning, which set a minimum of three stories and a maximum of 52 feet, but state that buildings of up to 65 feet would be allowed with a special permit. Some committee members thought that development should be capped at five or six stories, while others thought it should be able to go to 70 feet. Wall and Racicot again said they would continue to work on the language.
This article originally appeared here.