Hub  Milton frontage (copy)

The proposed Hub from Milton Road

Would requiring a special permit for mixed use buildings with more than 125 residents per acre outside designated activity centers help prevent projects that neighborhoods find inappropriate?

The option was one of dozens discussed in the High Occupancy Housing specific plan, which finished its 60-day public review period Wednesday.

In a presentation to the city council, Flagstaff Comprehensive Planning Manager Sara Dechter said specifics in the plan include possible permit requirements for high occupancy housing, pedestrian connectivity through large-scale housing projects, defining where it would be appropriate for the council to approve rezoning requests as well as defining where a rezoning to allow high occupancy housing would not be appropriate.

One of the ideas is to allow large-scale projects only in areas that are designated as “regional activity centers” and allowing smaller and medium-scale buildings in “neighborhood activity centers.” The plan suggests changing five existing “neighborhood” activity centers to “regional" scale. The areas proposed for higher density are two centers on South Milton Road, one center on J.W. Powell Boulevard, two near Little America and one near Ponderosa Parkway and Route 66.

The proposal that would require special permitting for large-scale high occupancy developments that are located in highway commercial, community commercial or commercial services zones would apply to buildings that have a density of more than 50 units per acre, 125 bedrooms or more per acre or are larger than one acre, Dechter said. However, Dechter said staff could edit that requirement to only require the permit outside of the core of a regional activity center, based on public input she received.

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High occupancy housing map

This map shows which neighborhood activity centers (in yellow) are being proposed for regional status to accommodate high occupancy housing.

Councilman Jim McCarthy said he would prefer the permit be one that is approved by the city council, rather than a conditional use permit, which is approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission without council input.

The plan also includes a policy of no longer allowing alleyways to be abandoned or enclosed, which Dechter said allows organized access to public services within the block, and prevents buildings from being a full city block in size.

If The Hub, a 591-bedroom apartment complex under construction on Milton Road and Mikes Pike, had been built with these requirements, Dechter said it would have been broken up into multiple buildings to allow pedestrian connectivity through the complex and required another level of approval because it is more than one acre in size.

High occupancy housing is already allowed by right throughout much of the city, including the Woodlands Village neighborhood, downtown and Southside, the Sunnyside neighborhood and along Route 66.

Dechter said other cities have incorporated “travel demand management” into developments, which could include incentives for a developer to provide bus passes for residents, increased bicycle parking and better pedestrian connectivity. However, Dechter said these strategies can be expensive for cities because it will require enforcement.

The plan also includes requirements for recycling in new developments. Dechter said about half of housing in the city is in multifamily housing, but said there are no requirements for recycling in those projects.

Councilwoman Eva Putzova has requested a future council discussion about requiring high occupancy developments to use reclaimed wastewater for nonpotable purposes, but that discussion has not been scheduled.

The council and the Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the plan again at the joint session on November 8.

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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