Thursday, July 12, 2007

Open Letter to County Council

A few comments on the developments discussed in the County Council meeting 7/11:

I believe it should be noted that the County is NOT required to approve any bonuses for RA-1 developments, such approval is purely a discretionary legislative act for planned unit/performance developments and, if considered, the subjective ratings for the bonuses are completely at the discretion of the County. The 'simple' RA-1 of one lot per 1.3 acres does not have that discretion.

Grand Haven: Development was approved under the previous code at 91 ERU's. Under the new code the base density would be 101 (a 10 percent increase), the requested approval is for a bonus of up to 40%. This proposal was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission, 7-0 with a density of 121 ERU's. There is apparently now no "public" open space, but a substantial portion of the 30 % (min. required) open space is planned for farm/grazing and is located along 2400 E which will, at least, give some visual "rural' open area for the neighborhood.

Staff suggested (and PC approved) a large bonus (8%) for "10% usable open space within the 30%." That 8% bonus would equate to 8 bonus lots at a nominal $300K per lot for about $2 million in lot sale profit alone to the developer. That usable 10% would be a landscaped private park for the use of the development residents. Some mention was made of public use as a soccer field, which may warrant a small "public use" bonus - if guaranteed in the development agreement.

Staff suggested a landscape bonus of 5% or 4.5 ERU's ($1+million in lots) for $250K (?) of trees. A "large animal" bonus of 1% was suggested for animal use on 21 lots (15% of development). While animals might maintain some semblance of rural, that might be high for the percentage of available lots.

If this openspace is deemed beneficial to the county a total bonus of perhaps 12 lots might be more appropriate; even that would still be an increase of 23 over the prior approval of 91 - a 25% increase.

As Councilman Neil Anderton commented, "I think we are heading in the wrong direction." (concerning density awards)

Eagle View: While this nominally may meet the 30% open space requirement, it is nearly totally within the development and is made up of blocks of space connected by trails, with little functionality for the public in general. It does not seem to meet the code designated intent for "achieving rural character" and does not "promote a rural feel along country roads" (The 50 ft buffer strip is a general requirement for all RA 1 developments)

Saddlebrook: Still contains NO open space and there is currently NO code enacted to allow for opting out of that requirement.

Sleeping Indian: This will be the first proposed development in the M Zone and may set a precedent for M Zone developments and awarding of bonuses. With the possibility of up to 115% bonuses, the M Zone will effectively become an "RA-2.3 zone" allowing twice the density of the RA-5 zones on the valley floor. M Zone is theoretically a transition zone from the valley floor to the P160 preservation zone and was nominally created for "clustering" which doesn't appear to have occurred in this proposal.

The M Zone PPD Performance Chart (16.29) is even more subjective, complicated and confusing than the RA-1. Planning Commission discussion on the bonuses, in general and specifically for the Indian Ranch project was very limited.

The first graded category "Extra unusable Open Space" refers, in this case, to the constrained land (30%+ slope) (unbuildable) and specifies "For each ten percent of extra open space that is unusable, the bonus density would apply as written." With a range of 1-10%, I have no idea what that means. As a maximum of 10 is allowed this would seem to say that 35.35 acres would yield 4 "10% of open space" or a 4% bonus, or does it mean that 8.9 acres of unusable space would be worth 10% bonus??.

"Density bonuses may not be stacked upon each other and more than one bonus given for the same item." Items 7, 8 and part of 10 seem to be giving duplicate credit for the same 10 acre park of which 8.9 acres (10% usable open space) is a basic requirement to get any bonus consideration. The concept of a 0.5% sales fee on lots (item 10) for construction of a fire station is an interesting concept. 150 lots at $300K x 0.5% = $225,000 Is that worth a 15% bonus or 5.6 ERU's at $300K = $1.6 million in lot sales??? That same park also may be a consideration for a bonus in the RA zone portion. The fee/tax on lot sales (a transfer tax) is something the County might enact to offset some of the costs of new developments - without awarding any bonus to developers.

While the 10 acres park and land for a fire station would be great assets to the County, it needs to be asked if the benefit is greater than the cost in extra density.

Items 11 through 16 are basically enhancements to the development and its residents. The bonus starts at 5% rather than 0% Is the mere request for a bonus worth a 30 % bonus? (6 categories at 5% minimum).

The RA Bonuses are also suggested by staff for internal non public parks and land and street scape for large bonuses. See comments above on cost vs. benefit to developer.

This entire M Zone bonus system needs to be reworked, IMO.

North Village Code amendments: 'Minor' modifications are being requested by the developer to allow maximizing the number of potential ERU's available for the Wasatch Commons development. Without the proposed changes to maximum lot size and width requirements, perhaps 5 to 10% fewer units (of 393 proposed) could be built and it would necessitate a few small "parks" especially on corners which may not be able to conform to current North Village Code. Wasatch Commons is forecast to have a negative fiscal impact of $900,000 (primary residences) to $300,000 (secondary). This impact is 'planned' to be offset by a commercial development on the lower mixed use area which forecasts a positive fiscal impact of $900,000 - IF a Big Box were allowed (current NOT allowed under Wasatch Code) or $230,000 as other retail.

Spring Hollow/Summit Creek: This is another development that had received approval under prior code for 19 lots. It is now back with a request for 25 on 26 acres. (a 32% increase) It has many similar problems as Grand Haven and Eagle View above, but no agricultural open space. The integral open space may be beneficial to the development, but little to the community. It does not yet have the required secondary access. The fiscal impact went from +$44,000 in Aug '06 to negative $66,000.

As County Manager Mike Davis has asked,"Is it the function of the County to maximize the profit of developers?" click here for audio

No comments: