There was a strong showing by builders, contractors, and developers at the NDDC’s Forum on the draft development regulations. Over forty people attended the event in order to hear Planning Commissioners Alice Thomas and Tracy Davis outline the document and field questions from the audience.
Although the broad goal of the rewrite project was to bring the development regulations in line with the comprehensive plan, the more meaningful objectives were to provide clear regulations for developers and citizens, offer a more timely review process, and reduce the number of conditional use permit reviews.
Commissioner Thomas started with a brief overview of the comprehensive plan, suggesting that the chapters on economic development and land use might be of most interest to the development community. She noted that a top priority for the Planning Commission included promoting economic development by supporting existing businesses, talent attraction and retention, aggressive business recruitment, and increasing the availability of commercial and industrial land.
The audience’s concerns seemed to focus on the significant number of uses that were prohibited in the downtown district. Proposed prohibitions include veterinary clinics, garden shops, day-cares, convenience stores, apartment buildings, research facilities, seminaries, row houses, and colleges. Attendees pointed out that most of these facilities already exist in downtown and that prohibiting them made little sense.
There were also concerns about parking requirements that were either physically or economically infeasible, prohibiting accessory uses such as decks, gazebos, home businesses, or hot tubs, and a too-limiting definition of mixed-use. Thomas and Davis stressed that this was a very preliminary draft and that the planning commissioners shared many of the audience’s concerns.
The City Council has named a three person task force to coordinate input on the draft, which consists of Councilor Betsey Buckheit, Commissioner Alice Thomas, and City Planner Dan Olson. The NDDC was invited to gather input from its stakeholders, EDA members in attendance shared their interest in the business community’s thoughts, and local builder Steve Schmidt, of Schmidt Homes, volunteered to gather input from the development community.
The City is anxious to keep this project moving steadily forward. Therefore, interested stakeholders are urged to share their comments as soon as possible.