If there’s going to be any action taken by City Council on a new ordinance to deal with the Ahsby highrise and its ilk, it won’t happen any time soon, probably not until after Mayor White’s successor has been sworn in.
Last week, however, the official who has been the public face of White’s administration during the controversy recommended that the city stop its work on a high-density development ordinance.
Instead, the city should continue to rely on a 60-year-old law governing where driveways connect to public streets, with additional guidelines on how the city will apply the measure to ensure that projects do not cause severe traffic congestion, said Andy Icken, a deputy public works director.
An advisory committee of developers, neighborhood leaders and experts had spent hundreds of hours trying to devise regulations that would apply only to large, dense projects near single-family residential neighborhoods.
Such an ordinance “would give people a warm feeling that this is the way the city does things,” Icken told a City Council committee on Monday. “The disadvantage is … as we explicitly define these development standards, we often find ourselves skirting the Z-word.”
Fear that a new ordinance might resemble zoning is a poor reason for the city to throw up its hands on such a vital public issue, neighborhood leaders said.
“This do-nothing approach that the city is taking will not protect existing residential neighborhoods,” said Jane Cahill, a neighborhood activist who served on the advisory committee that worked on the ordinance. “All parcels of land are not appropriate for all types of development.”
I’m not surprised by this. As you know, I’ve long thought that the best approach is to admit that they’re powerless to change the Ashby project, and to focus instead on a sensible ordinance, perhaps one that incorporates updating the city’s form-based codes, in order to be prepared for future Ashbys. I agree with Jane Cahill that all parcels of land are not appropriate for all types of development. But if a solution that does something about Ashby is too elusive and is hindering the pursuit of something that would otherwise be workable, then I think it’s clear that it’s time to try a different approach. Especially given that the Ashby developers are one step away from being able to move forward.
One more thing:
A Web site devoted to the issue is updated regularly, and includes a link that neighbors can use to check online for the status of the permit application, which last was returned to the developers June 25.
I presume that’s a reference to StopAshbyHighRise.org. Why they didn’t just give the URL is a mystery to me, but whatever. I don’t know that I’d call four updates since April 17 “updated regularly”, but it is still there.