the proposed law, according to department general manager
Charles Baker, is to encourage redevelopment by liberalizing
some provisions of the Unified Development Code when applied to
now stand, redeveloping an older site requires that it be
brought up to meet all the standards that are now applied to new
development if half or more of the existing structure is
replaced. Since those structures predate the four-year-old code,
often by many years, retrofitting becomes prohibitively
expensive and, in some cases, such as meeting required setbacks,
path now open requires the property owner to seek numerous
variances from the code though a time-consuming and expensive
process with the likelihood that not all the adjustments
necessary to make the project viable will be granted.
U.D.C. was intended to be a strong code and we find that it is
working pretty well with greenfields (new) development. But it
doesn't work so well with brownfields (redevelopment)," Baker
same time, county policy is directed toward reducing so-called
sprawl and directing growth into areas where there is existing
infrastructure. There also is a strong interest in many older
suburban areas in encouraging constructive redevelopment of
properties that have become eyesores.
nothing in the code which prohibits a property owner from making
improvements that do not involve structural replacements. Nor is
there anything in the pending ordinance that would waive
environmental or other requirements having to do with public
health and safety.
said he would expect most of the redevelopment that will occur
to involve properties designated for commercial use. He said he
is unable to estimate how extensively he new provisions would be
used. While there have been very few redevelopment proposals to
come before the planning and adjustment boards and the
department since the code went into effect, there is no telling
how many potential projects were not pursued because of the
restrictive nature of the applicable provisions of the code.
the approach to redevelopment will, in many cases, requires a
blending of community and business interests, he explained.
ordinance, which takes the form of amendments to the development
code, was drafted by a taskforce of representatives of both
sectors and introduced on Oct. 9 under the sponsorship of
Council president Christopher Coons, Councilwoman Karen Venezky
and Councilman Robert Weiner. With wide support it could become
law shortly before or soon after the turn of the year.
essence, it provides a mechanism for reaching a compromise
between the strict requirements of the development code and
doing nothing. "In effect, what we are saying is that we're
willing to settle for some improvements if it's impossible to
get everything the code [otherwise would] require," Baker
process will start with a public meeting at which property
owners and community residents will catalogue the shortcomings
of the subject property. The result of the session will be a
calculation of improvements toward meeting code standards which,
taken together, total 100%. If, for instance, drainage is
brought up to 60% of what would be required for new development
and 20% each of parking and landscaping standards are met, that
would total the requisite 100%.
acknowledges that coming up with and applying such a formula
could become sticky. Neighbors seeking to oppose the project
because of past disputes with the property owner, for instance,
might dispute multiple points. The ultimate determination of
what would be an acceptable formula would, therefore, depend on
the judgment of professionals in the land use department.
going to be looking to issues of substance," he said. At the
same time, providing for public participation at the beginning
of the process will establish an acceptable course for the
developer to follow from the beginning of the design and
engineering phases. The present process requires producing a
complete plan which is potentially subject to several changes.
streamlined process and the expectation that those most closely
affected by the proposed projects will be inclined toward
accepting reasonable compromises in return for seeing some
improvements made to the property are expected to make the
process work, Baker said.
He denied that the
proposed ordinance represents any watering down of the
development code. "Right now there is something of a barrier to
redevelopment in the code. If we remove that, the code is going
to keep on doing all the good things that it's doing," he said.