Thursday, February 25, 2010

Legislation Committee Recent Meeting - Grand Ave New Zoning

The second Legislation Committee meeting I attended was earlier this month, Feb. 8th.  This public hearing was held at Fair Haven School, right in the neighborhood where the pending zoning change is proposed.  The neighbors, business owners, Alders, and the community organization, Grand Avenue Village Assoc. (GAVA) all came to testify in support of the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments.  Yes, all the public testimony was "pro" and in favor of this change that has been in the works for ten years or so.

The City's Comprehensive Plan of  Development (published 10/03) had identified this neighborhood and business district as one of City's traditional neighborhood business districts that could benefit from a new zoning designation.  The zoning district along Grand Ave. is currently zoned General Business (BA).  This zoning regulates neighborhood business centers in essentially the same manner as more highway-oriented commercial use, according to City planners.  The proposed zoning ordinance text amendments, before the Committee and open for public testimony that night,  propose a brand-new Neighborhood Center Mixed Use (BA-1) designation for the properties along Grand Ave. from James St. to Perkins St.

After hearing all the favorable testimony and also having read and heard prepared written advice, background, and testimony, I voted with my colleagues to give unanimous, favorable-as-amended support for City zoning ordinance text amendments to establish a Neighborhood Center Mixed Use zoning district (BA-1) and zoning map amendments to change the zoning of properties along Grand Avenue from James St. to Perkins ST. from General Business (BA) to Neighborhood Center Mixed Use (BA-1).  This legislation was then given it's First Reading before the full Board, Feb. 16th, and will most likely be voted on at the next BOA meeting, March 1st.

This zoning ordinance amendment only applies specifically to the Grand Ave. properties, but some day similar zoning amendments could designate other neighborhood business districts identified in the Comprehensive Plan - including Westville Village - as a Neighborhood Center Mixed Use District.  Some of the perceived benefits include excluding BA zone permitted uses like motels, hotels, gun repair, auto dealers, and drive through businesses.  The BA-1 zone also provides for Special Permit/Exemption uses including convenience stores, barber shops, package stores, large parking lots, and any use over 5000sqft.  Also, it will be much easier to locate residential above first floor commercial uses and also introduce uses including fitness clubs, indoor ATM's, and live-work loft residences.  There will be form differences too including building height requirements of 2-4 stories, encourage building up to the street, and require first floor facades to be glassed.  Parking requirements will be reduced overall and a new Parking Management plan will accompany this zoning change.

Again, this is a brief synopsis.  If anyone would like to hear more, I'd be glad to chat and share all of the materials I have on this issue including a handy Chart illustrating the Use differences between BA and the proposed BA-1 zones.