Zoning Code problems and ambiguities

The zoning code is complex and, as the Hub demonstrated, ambiguities can have dramatic, unforeseen consequences. Stand Up for Flagstaff has studied Flagstaff’s code, form-based code in general, and the proposed amendments in particular. Please come to our information session on Monday, August 7, 6pm at Toasted Owl, where will go into more detail about our comments and recommendations. This is the evening before the public meeting on August 8, 6pm at Our Lady of Guadalupe basement, which we hope you will also attend.   

The Hub is being built because of current zoning code ambiguities. Here is a brief summary of those problems with comments about how these proposed amendments address them.

1. The Commercial Block building type is missing dimensions for width and length. 
2. The Commercial Block building description regarding mixed use is considered unenforceable.
3. No specific details are provided regarding what constitutes mixed use, so parking can be considered a use, as well as a rental office or ATM.
Comment on 1-3: Planning’s proposed zoning amendments would eliminate the Commercial Block building type altogether and replace it with a new building type in 3 versions. All 3 versions have dimensions assigned, but they also remove the requirement for mixed use which makes them an ambiguous building type. Height has not been addressed in these proposed amendments. No definition for mixed use has been added, leaving it open to the developer’s interpretation.

4. Information in the 10-50 building types chapter is incomplete, lacking all four T4Neighborhood zones.
5. Information about allowed building types in the 10-40 and 10-50 chapters does not agree. 10-40 would not allow Commercial Block in existing neighborhoods by right, 10-50 would allow it.
6. The code’s process directs users to the incomplete information in the 10-50 chapter, not to the 10-40 chapter.
Comment on 4-6: An amendment is proposed that would correctly complete the 10-50 building types table with all four T4 Neighborhood zones. But the new table would still allow the Commercial Block replacement building in neighborhoods by right. The building type information in the 10-40 chapter, which helps to complete the picture of what that zone looks like by describing the buildings found there, would be entirely removed, which weakens rather than strengthens the zone intention language.

7. Zone descriptions, or intentions, for T4N1-O and T5 were considered unenforceable.
Comment on 7: There is nothing in these proposed amendments to strengthen the language of the zone descriptions so that their intent has real meaning in terms of compatibility and character, and so staff will feel comfortable treating it as regulatory language.

8. Transect parking allowances are out of sync with parking reality.
9. No specific details exist regarding what constitutes open space.
Comment on 8 and 9: The Hub was allowed to call parking a use, and to call their internal private parking area open space. The Hub was allowed to expand a generous parking allowance to cover a high occupancy building, which will stress the parking infrastructure of the neighborhood. Nothing in these amendments addresses those problems.

10. No standards exist that apply to lot combinations and the role they played in the Hub.
Comment on 10: Council has asked planning to address lot combinations.

More info

Planning's proposed amendments are posted on the city's website here.
A pdf of planning's June 13 presentation at council is here.
A pdf of our detailed analysis and recommendations is here.