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Once more with the Ashby Highrise

Mayor White is taking another crack at an ordinance aimed at the Ashby highrise, and has met with some initial approval for it.

The City Council indicated its support of White’s approach by shelving a draft ordinance that had been the subject of debate for many months. Instead, the city will take public discussion for six months, and use an old city law on driveways to force traffic revisions from the Ashby developers, if needed.

The driveway law dates back to 1940, though its current form began to take shape in 1968. White acknowledged that reviving this broadly worded law might have a “chilling” effect on growth, so he circulated a memo Wednesday with criteria on how it would be applied. The memo said developments that meet three criteria will receive “more intense scrutiny” of their traffic loads. The criteria are:

  • A location where 60 percent or more of the properties within a 500-foot radius are residential
  • Driveways that feed onto local or collector streets instead of a major thoroughfare
  • A net increase of 50 additional vehicles going to and from the development during rush hours.

To mitigate the traffic effects, developers might have to add turning lanes or lights, scale back the number of apartments, or change the type of stores, White said.

Enforcement comes from the city’s power to reject a site plan, which shows where driveways connect to public streets.

The city will use these “interim procedures” while gathering public comment through July 1, the memo said. By Aug. 1, the city will issue a new proposal for regulating traffic from high-density developments. But it was unclear if this meant a new ordinance or the adjustment or tightening of current ordinances or policies.

“We are listening to everybody’s concerns,” Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck said. “It’s an extremely complex process, and one size does not fit all.”

Chris Amandes, co-chair of the Stop Ashby High-Rise task force, said he was fine with the mayor’s new strategy.

“They are continuing along the same lines as the high-density ordinance, but this has the additional advantage of not having to pass City Council,” Amandes said.

See here for the previous update. At least this approach now has support from the Ashby opponents, which is a step forward from where we were before. I still think that a narrow focus on traffic is myopic and will not do enough to avoid this kind of situation in the future, and that the risk of exposing the city to a lawsuit over an ordinance like this is a risk that should be weighed very carefully. I’ll be very interested to see what we learn from those six months of public discussion.

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin Whited says:

    If a narrow focus on traffic is myopic, then how do we describe the threat to force city bureaucrats to quash development depending on Mayor White’s whims, via an antiquated driveway law?

  2. Baby Snooks says:

    “They are continuing along the same lines as the high-density ordinance, but this has the additional advantage of not having to pass City Council,” Amandes said.

    You have to wonder if Vinson & Elkins now runs the city. They obviously are calling the shots here. It wasn’t enough to bypass the city charter. Now they are asking the mayor to bypass city council. You have to wonder how city council reacted to this comment.