Recently, a spate of reasonable proposals have been shot down by the Metropolitan Development Commission due to fears of over-densification. The MDC has been using previous neighborhood land use plans to defend their repeated denials. While it may be true that the most recent land use plan called for a different type of development, that does not mean that there can not be some wiggle room left for development of multi-family residences. The best recent example of this is in Fountain Square, starting on page 41. A run-down old tire shop could be redeveloped as a small duplex. Some renderings are shown below:
Duplexes are common throughout the urban core, and this one seems to make sense to me. It’s on a busy thoroughfare, just a few blocks from the future Red Line BRT. Yet, the MDC is using the 2002 Fountain Square Neighborhood Land Use plan, which calls for Single Family Housing on this spot (I attempted to color the parcel in red below):
There is no way in 2002 that planners could have anticipated Bus Rapid Transit just two blocks from this parcel. We know now that the transit line is imminent. I submit that other items that we might know:
- We have a constant budget crunch, and property tax caps (implemented in 2011) mean that we need more residents in our city to pay for our expenditures.
- Holding the parcel open for single family dwellings will not likely help upward mobility options for new residents.
- The more we discourage reasonable redevelopment of the urban core, the more we risk forcing development to move elsewhere, either to the suburbs, or to another city.
- We’re building a dedicated transit line that is dependent on ridership, and having more people living along it could hopefully make the line more successful.
We have a shot to get this right. I fear that if the Red Line ridership is disappointing, detractors will point at it and mobilize against completing the network. This is just one small parcel, but it seems to be part of a larger effort by the MDC to hold to decades-old plans, as if nothing else has changed. These plans are meant to be guidelines, not sacred texts.