As the City Plan Commission readies to take action on Downtown Zoning and other issues at tonight’s meeting, let me share my notes from last week’s meeting.
Proposed zoning changes can be viewed here.
I arrived at the meeting which started at 4:45pm shortly after 5pm.
There are a few main goals of rezoning, one is to bring the Jewelry District and Downcity into the same Zoning District now that the highway dividing them is gone. Also, Zoning in place by July 1st is the zoning that the 195 Commission is supposed to consider when making decision about the 195 land. The City wants to tighten and improve its zoning prior to that.
Thom Deller, Director of Planning & Development spoke about the proposed zoning changes:
- Downcity Design Review Committee (DRC) becomes Downtown Review Committee and expands jurisdiction over development in the Jewelry District in addition to the current Downcity area it covers now.
- A and B street designations are added to the Jewelry District.
- Design standards extend to the Jewelry District.
- Planning Staff will review and approve proposals that confirm to Zoning (i.e. not seeking a waiver or incentives).
- Projects seeking waivers and/or incentives need to appear before the new DRC.
- As currently most proposals seek a waiver, it is believed that most projects would still be considered by the DRC.
- Demo portion may still need work.
- Incorporate “public space” into private development as a way to increase open space.
Bob Azar from the Planning Department explained the process of the rezonig:
- Zoning needs to be in place by July 1st for the 195 Commission to recognize it. Changes can be made after July 1st but the 195 Commission would have to adopt those changes.
- Public Hearings at the City Council should start in March.
- Pass out of Council Committee in April.
- Final Council approval in May or June.
It is a tight schedule but they have on month of padding in the schedule to get the rezoning approved by July.
- Likes the changes made to allowed interim uses (includes temporary spaces, excludes surface parking).
- Likes that research is being added as a use in the Jewelry District.
- Supports the concept of CityWALK and encourages language in zoning reflective of it.
- Questions the allowance of nightclubs as an allowed use by right. Would like to see Nightclubs need a special use permit.
- Thinks revenue generating activity (i.e. restaurants) needs to be an allowed use in open space zones to allow to generate revenue and activity for those spaces.
- Would like to see bonuses for mixed-use/residential development.
Providence Preservation Society:
- Submitted a letter and proposed changes to the Zoning document. Highest concern, demolitions, especially by neglect.
Jewelry District Association:
- Wants language added on the CityWALK concept.
- Reiterates the Providence Foundation’s position on nightclubs.
- Would like a desire line pedestrian easement from corner of Richmond and Chestnut to the proposed pedestrian bridge over the Providence River.
Colin Kane, 195 Commission:
- Reiterated that they own the 195 land.
- Commented several times that the 195 Commission members were late to this and needing to play catch up and move fast.
- Indicated that the “pause” in public space planning does not mean that the Commission is against public space.
- Admits that there may be “conflict” and “tension” with the neighborhood.
- Concerned about staff review process and the possiblity that that could lessen public involvement.
- Very concerned about the language regarding historic buildings and demolition.
- Criteria which allows for demolition is very broad and vague and can be interpreted loosly, making it hard for the DRC to argue against a demolition.
- Concerned that institutions are a special use outside the I3 overlay zone. Doesn’t think the Institutional uses should be restricted.
- Reminds people that the tax exempt status issues should be decoupled from the zoning issue.
A representative from the Fox Point Neighborhood Association also spoke, but from where I was sitting I could not hear her.