Neighborhood Compatibility Issues Postponed by Ethics Question

The City Council began another earnest debate on Feb. 12th concerning the use the floor area ratio (FAR) as a tool to limit “monster homes” in the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods. Mayor pro tem Kelly Ohlson, who has always been an advocate of limiting FAR, said the latest proposal has “dramatically reduced” the effectiveness of this tool. He argued that eliminating FAR from the list of strategies would throw out “the main thing people were concerned about.”

On the other hand, Council member Wade Troxell said the number of out of scale homes is small and limiting FAR is “a solution in search of a problem.” In attempting to justify putting FAR back on the table, Council member Ben Manvel said the citizens’ initiative that led to the 2011 repeal of the previous FAR limits was planned by builders and REALTORS® – not the “people’s voice.”

This discussion was scheduled to continue on Feb. 19, but it was postponed after the Council agreed that the Ethics Committee should determine the answer to a citizen’s question regarding a potential conflict of interest. The possible conflict is due to the fact that Council members Ben Manvel and Gerry Horak live in the affected neighborhoods and could potentially benefit from property values impacted by the regulations.

Interestingly, the Council’s Ethics Committee includes Lisa Poppaw, Aislynn Kottwitz, Ben Manvel and Mayor Karen Weitkunat (alternate). Assuming Manvel does not participate in this discussion, Poppaw, Kottwitz and Weitkunat will make the decision. Note: FCBR® supports a slate of voluntary tactics to address neighborhood compatibility but opposes reducing allowable FAR.

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