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East & West Side design Standards
 

East & West Side design Standards

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Presentation from the city on possible changes to design standards for scrape off's and pop up's in the Old Town area. Given to Government Affairs Committee on August 3rd.

Presentation from the city on possible changes to design standards for scrape off's and pop up's in the Old Town area. Given to Government Affairs Committee on August 3rd.

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  • Hello, I’m Megan Bolin, City Planner in the Advance Planning Department. The purpose of this work session is to discuss the results of the East and West Side Neighborhoods Design Standards Study.
  • In January, 2010, Council directed staff to study issues and concerns related to the expansion and replacement of small, older houses in Fort Collins’ oldest neighborhoods. Some residents feel that the new construction occurring is incompatible with the established neighborhood character. The goal of the study is to determine whether the City’s existing development standards are adequate and in line with City policy, or whether changes are warranted.
  • The study area is outlined in red on this map, and encompasses the two residential areas adjacent to Downtown. There are three zoning districts that are impacted – the Neighborhood Conservation Buffer (NCB) zone is shown in purple, Neighborhood Conservation Medium Denisty (NCM) is in green, and finally Neighborhood Conservation Low Density (NCL) is in blue. Known today as the East and West side neighborhoods, these areas are identified by their classical block pattern, architecturally diverse houses, mature landscaping, and proximity to the Downtown Business District.
  • The issue of compatibility is not new to Fort Collins; in fact, there is a long history of policies and development standards that have been adopted by the City Council with the intent of preserving and protecting neighborhood character and identity. In the late 1980’s, the first Neighborhood Plans were adopted for the area, establishing a policy basis for protecting the character of the neighborhoods. In 1991, three new zoning districts with development standards were created to implement the policies. In 1996, a Design Standards and Guidelines document was developed in order to address appropriate design in greater detail with design-based language and illustrations. The document was not adopted as originally created, due to controversy over aspects of the standards. Rather, a few of the standards were added into the three zoning districts and the remainder of the document was adopted as guidelines In 2004, additional standards were adopted to regulate accessory buildings built in back yards, and most recently, In 2006, the floor area limit was increased in the NCL zone from 33% to 40%.
  • The study was divided into three phases: the first being to examine existing conditions, the second was to identify and analyze issues, and the third focused on exploring potential implementation options. A key component of the process was the formation of a Citizen Advisory Committee. The Committee was comprised of resident volunteers from the community and represented a variety of expertise and view points. There was a purposfuly mix of industry professionals and neighborhood residents. Two members represented the Landmark Preservation Commission, one represented the Planning and Zoning Board, and another represented the Zoning Board of Appeals. The CAC met twice a month and worked with staff through the entire process. Two public meetings were held with residents of the neighborhoods; one in April and the other at the end of July. Citizen comments span the whole range of perspectives, from support for the status quo to support for additional controls on new construction. In general, one point of broad agreement is that reinvestment benefits the neighborhoods, as long as new construction is carefully designed in response to the characteristics that define the neighborhood. In addition, two work sessions were held with the Planning and Zoning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Landmark Preservation Commission to obtain their feedback and input along the way.
  • Considering that the size of expansions and new houses is a concern to many residents, it is logical to question whether City standards that regulate building size are appropriate. The first step is to understand what is already built, and then compare that to what the City allows to be built. Consider that the typical original lot in Old Town has dimensions of 50’ by 190’, which gives 9,500 square feet of lot area. However, in many cases, the corner lots at the ends of the blocks were subdivided into two or even three separate parcels, which then face the street perpendicular to the original lotting pattern, thus creating much smaller lots in the 3,000 to 4,750 square foot range Despite these differences in lot size, the size of the houses was originally fairly consistent, with the majority of houses ranging from 800 to 1,200 square feet. This similarity in building size is arguably an aspect of the established character that is to be protected under adopted policies. This situation creates dramatically varying FARs within a block. For example, a 1,200 square foot house on a 3,000 square foot lot has a FAR of .40. If a 300 square foot garage is present, the FAR is .50. However, the same size house and garage on a 9,500 square foot lot gives an existing FAR of .16.
  • To illustrate the comparison between existing and what’s allowed, consider the following examples from the NCL and NCM zones.
  • House number 1 represents the existing home, when combined with the garage gives a FAR of .25. House 2 and 3 represent the maximum FAR that could be built as a one-story house in the NCL and NCM zones. Compare that to house 4 and 5, which also represent the maximum FAR for each zone, but built as a two story house instead.
  • Staff believes that the discrepancy between the building square footage currently allowed by the City and what is typically built in the neighborhoods is the root of the issue. When typical FARs range from .15-.37, depending on the lot size, and the City allows .40 or .50, the result is dramatic size differences between adjacent houses, which effects shading and privacy. Furthermore, the controversy seems to be most prevalent within the NCM zones, and does not seem to be an issue in the NCB. The NCB covers a relatively small portion of the study area and allows for a one-to-one ratio of building to lot size, which is much larger than what is allowed in the other two zones. However, the NCB is meant to be a buffer between the Downtown business district and the predominant residential areas, and allows for more intense building size to provide a transition between the areas. In addition to size, design was also identified as playing a critical role in the issue. It was noted that there could be cases where a poorly designed smaller house can be more out of character with larger houses. Although design can be subjective, and stakeholders identified the need to maintain diversity and flexibility, good design can mitigate the impacts of houses that are perceived to be “just too large”.
  • The final phase in the process was to identify potential implementation options for City Council to consider that would address the issues to different degrees. Note that the options are fairly conceptual at this stage, and that if staff were directed to proceed with any, further analysis would be needed to understand impacts on the triple-bottom line. The next two slides focus on options related to building size, and all are aimed at reducing the City’s current standards. One method would be to take a standardized approach, which means that the City would continue to regulate size uniformly by zoning district. The floor area limit, or FAR, could be lowed in the NCL and NCM zones, which would further restrict the allowed building size.
  • Another method could be to take a contextual approach, which means that these options focus on regulating building size based on a houses immediate surroundings, rather than across an entire zone. One option is to allow each house to expand by a certain percentage – for instance, the City could say that each house in the study area is allowed to increase in size by, say 40%. Another option is to allow each house to expand based on averaging with the two adjacent houses. Taking that concept a little further, the City could allow each house to expand based on the average size house on its block face. And finally, building off of the last option, the City could allow for an additional percentage increase above the average on a block face. All options would reduce the amount of expansion from what is currently allowed, but they would reduce the occurrence of dramatic expansions because a house would be limited to the relative size of the houses closest to it. Furthermore, if building size is an element that defines neighborhood character (which City policy says is true), it can be argued that these options better protect neighborhood character because the amount of expansion is more tailored to the unique size variances that are prevalent throughout these neighborhoods.
  • This slide shows the implementation options related to design. One could be to require neighborhood meetings for expansions and new houses. Another could be to reinstate the Design Assistance Program. This is a former City-administered program that offered property owners financial assistance to put towards time with an architect or designer, prior to them submitting any plans to the City. The goal is to help residents as early in the process as possible when they are considering expanding or rebuilding their house incorporate good design elements that compliment the surrounding neighborhood. Another option could be to codify select guidelines from the Design Guidelines document and make them standards. And, finally, the City could require the Landmark Preservation Commission or form a new Architectural Review Committee to review all plans for expansions and new houses. All of these options would increase the level of review, whereby a property owner could have the assistance of input from their neighbors or design professionals to encourage more sensitive design. This level of review, however, should be weighed with the impacts on staff time and costs to the property owner to properly implement.
  • That concludes the presentation. I look forward to discussing the topic in more detail on Tuesday.

East & West Side design Standards East & West Side design Standards Presentation Transcript