Scott Wedel: Council should adhere to code
April 25, 2016
I am deeply concerned that the variance hearing for 1125 Lincoln Ave. is considering a fundamental change in the size and height of downtown buildings. I strongly urge the City Council on Tuesday evening to deny the multiple sweeping variances the developer has requested.
The current Community Code was generally followed for all new downtown buildings constructed during the real estate boom. They were all able to follow the pattern of being three stories tall with the third floor setback from the second floor. Thus, we allow three-story buildings that look more like two-story buildings for those walking downtown.
1125 Lincoln is asking for those standards to be ignored in the pursuit of increased density.
The code’s height limit of 38 feet is to be ignored for a 51-foot tall building in which the additional parapets and tower are not even counted, as those are exempt under the Community Code.
The code’s FAR (building size to lot size ratio) of 2.0 is to be ignored for this building FAR of 3.44.
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The code’s required 15-foot setback for the third story (at 28 feet above ground) is to be ignored.
The primary argument in the planning staff report to issue these variances are to increase building density in downtown. I note the Community Code allowing three-story buildings with the third-floor setback from the street and allowing a FAR of 2.0 is already far greater density than the current buildings on the parcel. Thus, the community did accept greater density when approving the current Community Code.
I think that considering such sweeping variances is, by implication, a decision on whether the Community Code remains in effect or are we allowing buildings of whatever height and mass in downtown.
Obviously, an eight- or 10-story residential tower would allow even greater density and fit the urban design desired by some. Thus, this decision is also fundamentally setting the future direction of downtown development.
Will we say that the Community Code defines the sort of height, mass and setbacks that the community has agreed is desired in our downtown area? Or will we say that the Community Code standards are no longer relevant and that anything goes as long as it increases density, which means being bigger and taller than what has come before?
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