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P and Z praises work of CRA planner Zyscovich

By Staff | May 5, 2011

Details of land development regulations in the CRA didn’t necessarily come as a surprise to Planning and Zoning Commissioners on Wednesday.
But as urban planner Bernard Zyscovich and his team laid out the difficulties developers and business owners face while trying to grow in the district, it became apparent there has been little common sense in the approach thus far.
Commissioner Dan Read, while not surprised, said the information was somewhat overwhelming.
“For us to absorb it one sitting, at least for me, is difficult … I’m flabbergasted while listening to this,” Read said.
It made sense to Read why there has been a lack of development in the CRA. It was apparent to the commissioner that developers faced a tough road if they wanted to build.
“There’s no clear picture for a developer to look at without going through a long, drawn-out process,” Read added.
Tackling the zoning and LDR is part of the overall process for Bernard Zyscovich and his team, which was contracted by the CRA board last year to redesign the district’s long-range vision plan.
The previous vision plan was geared toward large projects on large tracts of land. But as the economy began to choke and sputter over the last five years, those large-scale developments never came to the CRA, and left the district scrambling for a new identity, and plan, for success.
Project Director Trent Baughn said they were not trying to pick on the previous vision plan and the zoning that followed. But it was important to make certain that developers had faith in the process.
Baughn said the newly redesigned zoning could be done as early as eight months.
“The keys to moving forward are flexibility and predictability in the process,” Baughn said. “Developers need to know they can come downtown and move through an efficient process and help the community.”
The city and the CRA has relied on PDPs — planned development projects — to bring change to the CRA.
Bernard Zyscovich said PDPs are designed for large scale, “city center”, type projects, not the small, neighborhood oriented goals of the new vision plan.
“PDPs have a purpose — but they’re intended to fill that purpose when the scale of the project is so intense,” he said.
Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Patti Martin said Zyscovich’s work could be applied outside of the CRA.
“My hope is a lot of the suggestions can be incorporated citywide, as well,” she said.
Former chairman Gene Wolfe said the city has “tried it all before” when it came to zoning and the city simply had to do the best with what they had.
Commissioner Chris Scott said the best place to start would be to address the complexity of the zoning language.
“I find language in a lot of codes contain a lot of lengthy words, legalese,” Scott said. “I hope they can really simplify the words, make it straightforward and make it easy so anyone can understand the process.”