TO: Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager
FROM: J. B. Culpepper, Planning Director
Gene Poveromo, Development Manager
DATE: September 17, 2008
Tonight the Council considers an application for a text amendment to the Land Use Management Ordinance. The amendment would; 1) increase the permitted floor area in the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional zoning district; and 2) insert text into the ordinance describing the purpose and intent of the Residential-Special Standards- Conditional zoning district.
RESIDENTIAL-SPECIAL STANDARDS-CONDITIONAL ZONING DISTRICT
The Residential-Special Standards-Conditional (R-SS-C) was enacted by the Town Council in 1999. A brief background on this zoning district follows.
In 1998, the Council received a report from Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, describing a proposal for an affordable housing project on a Town-owned lot at the corner of Legion Road and Scarlett Drive. Although the site design described in the report would help achieve development of affordable housing (100% affordable units with Orange Community Housing and Land Trust), the proposed development intensity (floor area, density, setbacks) did not meet the standards of most of Chapel Hill’s existing residential zoning districts. At that time only the Town Center and OI-3 districts offered intensity standards that would permit development as proposed.
The Council referred the proposal to the staff with instruction to prepare a follow-up report on how a new zoning district might be created that would allow development of the type of affordable housing project as illustrated in the report.
In 1999, the staff returned to the Council with a recommendation to create a new zoning district that would accommodate the higher intensity proposed by Orange Community Housing and Land Trust. This new district, Residential-Special Standards-Conditional, removed some of the intensity standards (such as lot size, and maximum density per acre) and provided a higher floor area ratio.
Prior to amending the Ordinance, the staff informed the Council that the creation of such a district would not allow use of the new intensity standards until the Council decided to apply the new district to a particular property of land through the rezoning process. The staff also anticipated that the terms of a conditional use rezoning proposal or the terms of an accompanying Special Use Permit proposal might include a voluntary offer of affordability by the applicant to justify rezoning to this conditional district.
Subsequent to creating this new zoning district, the Council has approved two affordable housing projects with the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional District: Scarlett Drive Townhomes (Orange Community Housing and Land Trust) and Rusch Hollow Subdivision (Habitat for Humanity). Both projects provided 100% affordable units.
In 2000, the Chapel Hill Comprehensive Plan was amended and included text recognizing that the Town should continue to work on positive inducements, such as the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional District, in an attempt to increase the amount of available affordable housing.
CONDITIONAL USE REZONING REQUEST
In Chapel Hill, a rezoning may be requested in two ways: general use and conditional use rezoning requests. A general use rezoning request is to change the zoning to a different zoning district in which any of several kinds of developments and uses are permissible. A conditional use rezoning request is to allow development and uses only with approval of a Special Use Permit. The applicant, Ram Development Company, has submitted a Conditional Use Zoning application and a Special Use Permit application.
With respect to conditional use rezoning requests, the Council has adopted two Resolutions stating the Council’s expectations associated with the accompanying Special Use Permit application. The first Resolution outlines the Council’s desire for the submission of an energy management plan with the Special Use Permit application associated with a rezoning. The second Resolution states the Council expectations that the Special Use Permit associated with a rezoning application include an affordable housing component.
Presently, the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional District is a zoning district that includes higher land use intensity standards for an applicant to address the affordable housing goal of the Comprehensive Plan.
We believe that the intent and application of this zoning district could be expanded beyond affordable housing to address other goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan. We believe that an amended Residential-Special Standard-Conditional District could be used for developments that respond to the Council’s desire to promote energy management, public art, multi-modal transportation, residential infill near downtown and proposals that involve development opportunity areas as noted on the Land Use Plan. We also believe that an amended district could compliment the Council resolutions concerning Special Use Permits and the submission of an energy management plan and an affordable housing component.
In order to encourage developments that would achieve these Council objectives, and address the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, we recommend a text amendment that increases the floor area ratio in this district. This proposal would increase the floor area ratio from .40 to 1.10. We believe that the increased intensity permitted with this adjusted floor area could result in proposals for the Council’s consideration that would help a development further address goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan with inclusion of a clear intent statement.
We also recommend a text amendment that inserts text into the Conditional Use District section of the Land Use Management Ordinance that describes the purpose and intent of the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional district. We recommend that this text describe the Council’s anticipation that a proposal in this district would address specific goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan.
If the text amendment were enacted, the assignment of this conditional zoning district to a specific property would require a further Council legislative rezoning action.
PROPOSED TEXT AMENDMENT
The proposed changes to the Land Use Management Ordinance would: 1) increase the floor area ratio in the Residential-Special Standards- Conditional zoning district; and 2) create text focused on the purpose and intent of the zoning district.
We believe this adjustment is appropriate to allow the Council’s consideration of more compact residential development.
Residential development and the recreational, open space, and other urban amenities associated with such development when located within the Residential- Special Standards-Conditional District shall, to the extent practical, comply with the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan. Atlas amendment applications, proposing to rezone a site to the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional district, must demonstrate that the associated Special Use Permit complies with one or more of the following objectives of the Comprehensive Plan:
Article 4.4 of the Land Use Management Ordinance establishes the intent of Zoning Amendments (including both atlas and text amendments to the Ordinance) by stating that, “In order to establish and maintain sound, stable, and desirable development within the planning jurisdiction of the Town it is intended that this chapter shall not be amended except:
a) to correct a manifest error in the chapter; or
b) because of changed or changing conditions in a particular area or in the jurisdiction generally; or
c) to achieve the purposes of the Comprehensive Plan.
Article 4.4 further indicates:
It is further intended that, if amended, this chapter be amended only as reasonably necessary to the promotion of the public health, safety, or general welfare, and in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.
Each of these requirements, with respect to the proposed text amendments, is discussed below:
A) An amendment to the Land Use Management Ordinance (text amendment) is necessary to correct a manifest error in the chapter.
Staff Comment: We believe the information in the record to date can be summarized as follows:
B) An amendment to the Land Use Management Ordinance (text amendment) is necessary because of changed or changing conditions in a particular area or in the jurisdiction generally.
Staff Comment: We believe the information in the record thus far can be summarized as follows:
C) An amendment to the Land Use Management Ordinance (text amendment) is justified to achieve the purposes of the Comprehensive Plan.
Staff Comment: We believe the information in the record thus far can be summarized as follows:
“Maintain the Urban Services Area/Rural Buffer Boundary – By redeveloping a Downtown site rather than challenging the buffer with additional suburban track development, the Residences at Grove Park project alleviates suburban sprawl by providing a significant choice for new residential development on one of the few remaining sites where such development is encouraged and appropriate. Additionally, this new opportunity for healthy density is created with little additional infrastructure required since the utilities and base services are already present.” [Applicant’s Statement]
“Conserve and protect existing neighborhoods - Since the area inside the Urban Services Area is approximately 94% built out, one of the few remaining opportunities for Chapel Hill to accommodate the nearly 50% population growth forecast in the 2035 Long Range Plan is to seek out sustainable urban redevelopment sites like 425 Hillsborough St. With developments like Grove Park handling the new growth, the character and nature of Chapel Hill’s historic neighborhoods can be protected.” [Applicant’s Statement]
“Create and preserve affordable housing opportunities – This proposal includes 26 new 2-bedroom affordable condominiums on-site to support the Council’s Inclusionary efforts.” [Applicant’s Statement]
“Work toward a balanced transportation system - By design, the Residences at Grove Park bring more residents to the walkable Downtown environment. The proximity of these new residents to downtown should reduce overall automobile trips as well as providing the necessary density to properly support the growing bus system provided by Chapel Hill. More directly though, the improvements Grove Park brings to the pedestrian connections already on our site and the bus corridors it borders will encourage pedestrians, bikes, and bus ridership through out the area and be a model for other developments along the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. transit corridor.” [Applicant’s Statement]
“Complete the bikeway/greenway/sidewalk system – The new pedestrian and bicycle amenities provided by the Grove Park design are built specifically to provide connectivity to Downtown and encourage its revitalization. Along with the Downtown connections and our RCD improvements, we are dedicating a greenway easement to improve connectivity to the Bolin Creek Greenway system and other established pathways for the Town.” [Applicant’s Statement]
“Provide quality community facilities and services – From the well-lit and secure subterranean parking decks to the expansive green spaces and active recreation areas enjoyed by all our residences, the Grove Park project will improve the RCD and the currently clear-cut site to make it a model community for sustainable infill and renewal.” [Applicant’s Statement]
Comment: For additional information, please refer to the Recommendation section in this memorandum.
We believe the justification of the text amendment application is to achieve the purposes of the Comprehensive Plan particularly as it relates to development and redevelopment of properties in a manner that encourages a variety of objectives including affordable housing, a balanced transportation system, promotes a healthy downtown, protection of the natural environment, and promotion of public art in development.
Planning Board: The Planning Board considered the text amendments on August 19, 2008 and voted 4 to 2 to recommend that the Council deny the enactment of Ordinance A.
Planning Board members provided the following justification:
1) Board members noted that the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional district was initially intended to apply only to developments that proposed 100% affordable housing;
2) Members indicated that the proposed change to increase the floor area ratio from 0.4 to 1.1 did not maintain the spirit and intent of this affordable housing district;
3) Board Members stated that the creation of a district that permits higher density residential development should be coordinated with the Council committee’s discussion to implement several small area studies along the Town’s major corridors; and
4) Members stated that the creation of this district appeared to be in direct response to the proposed Residences at Grove Park developments and therefore may not be well suited for other areas of Town.
The Planning Board also voted (6-0) to communicate to the Council that the Board continues to support the Residences at Grove Park Special Use Permit application but not the associated text amendment or zoning atlas amendment.
Comment: Although the Residential-Special Standards-Conditional zoning district was originally developed to promote affordable housing objectives, we believe there are a variety of Comprehensive Plan objectives that the Council may want to promote. The provision of a clear intent section for the amended zoning district provides an additional tool for the Council to encourage desirable development. Because the zoning district is a conditional district, the Council will not consider applying the zone without an accompanying Special Use Permit. Application of the amended zoning district to a specific property would be a legislative decision within the control of the Council.
Staff’s Preliminary Recommendation: We recommend that the Council enact the attached Ordinance to 1) increase the floor area ratio in the Residential-Special Standards- Conditional zoning district; and 2) create text describing the purpose and intent of the zoning district as described in the Proposed Text Amendment section of this memorandum.