On November 27th the City Council had its first chance to provide input on a report focused on the Eastside-Westside neighborhoods and the latest recommendations intended to preserve neighborhood character. City staff and consultants hoped to move forward quickly with some simple ideas such as expanding the notification area (when a property owner intends to renovate or rebuild a home) and better promotion of an existing voluntary design assistance program.
However, the conversation quickly became more complicated when Kelly Ohlson, Ben Manvel and Lisa Poppaw said they favor going above and beyond the recommendations made by the consultants. In essence these councilors voiced support for regulations limiting floor area ratio (FAR) on remodels and additions even though voters already made it clear that they oppose FAR restrictions when a majority voted to repeal an ordinance that limited FAR two years ago.
Ignoring the consultant’s opinion that “subtleties of context” are important in considering design requirements, these Council members said they want to see FAR restrictions back on the table along with a variety of other design guidelines and/or requirements that could be considered such as mass, scale, wall sculpting and solar access. Ohlson made his feelings clear when he said, “(This) voluntary stuff is a fairy tale.” He argued that clear mandates and restrictions are necessary to ensure neighborhood character is protected.
Staff appealed nonplussed by the reaction and were not entirely clear on how to proceed. At this point the Council has the issue scheduled for another discussion on January 15 but it appears extremely unlikely that they’ll have drafted regulations ready for review that quickly. Two members of the Council were not present at this work session: Aislinn Kottwitz and Gerry Horak.