Council digs into the details of MHA upzoning

Last week, the City Council discussed the cross-cutting issues related to the city-wide MHA legislation up for consideration. This week, it’s sorting through each Council district’s specific issues, starting with Districts 4,6 and 7 this afternoon.

Since the MHA legislation was officially transmitted to the Council by then-Mayor Tim Burgess in the fall of 2017, much has transpired, and a rather large collection of amendments to the proposed zoning changes have been proposed by both members of the community and the Council members themselves. Council member Rob Johnson, who chairs the Select Committee on City-wide MHA, said that he looks at those suggestions as falling within three buckets:

  1. Things outside of the scope of the Final Environmental Impact Statement compiled for the MHA legislation. Anything proposed that is outside of the scope of the FEIS would require additional environmental impact analysis before it can be incorporated into the legislation — and given how long it has taken to get the legislation this far, no one in City Hall wants to go there. So anything outside the FEIS scope is unlikely to get any traction. Though Johnson did point out today that the city does have an established process for property owners to petition for a zoning change on an individual property.
  2. Things inside of the scope of the Final EIS, that can be considered as possible amendments.
  3. Things that aren’t land use issues, but could potentially be incorporated into the planned companion resolution. If it follows the pattern of the companion resolution for the other MHA upzoning ordinances passed to-date, those things will include commitments to study related issues, address parks or transportation issues, and build MHA-funded affordable housing within the neighborhoods where the funds were raised.

In general, proposals to increase the level of upzoning are outside the scope of the FEIS and can’t be considered, while proposals to “downzone” from the original proposal or maintain the current zoning are within scope and are fair game. In today’s discussion of Districts 4, 6 and 7, many of the upzoning requests were in the heart of an urban village or close to transit hubs, while the downzoning requests were generally at the edge of urban village boundaries where local residents hope to create gentler transitions to the surrounding single-family homes.  There were, however, a couple of cases of neighborhoods trying to fight back against any increases in density, and a few special cases to protect a park or other special property. Overall, the conversation was brisk — though Council members rarely showed their cards as to which of the proposals they were willing to sponsor as formal amendments. The exception to that was in the Crown Hill Urban Village in District 6, with Council member O’Brien expressing support for further adjustments that would create a hybrid of lowrise and “residential small lot” (RSL) zoning, adjusting the edges down to RSL. O’Brien said that it appears that compromise has the support of the community.

The conversation continues on Wednesday morning, with Districts 1,2, 3 and 5.

You can read the complete collection of proposed zoning changes for all seven districts here.

Next week an updated version of the MHA legislation, containing a long list of technical updates, will be re-introduced to replace the original version from 2017. You can view the changes here.

On the evening of February 21, the Council will hold a public hearing on the MHA legislation. On January 22, a list of the proposed amendments to that legislation will be published, so as to inform the public comments on February 21.