Setting minimum density requirements in areas where we want density


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Today, on Wednesday August 13th, the PLUS Committee will receive a briefing on Council Bill 118167, related to minimum density requirements in the city’s most dense and walkable neighborhoods.

Density helps create better pedestrian environments because it means more people on the street–whether they are coming from home or work, or out shopping in local businesses or eating at local restaurants. More people on the street level helps these community gathering places and businesses thrive, which in turn make for a more desirable pedestrian environment. This density can also help make an area transit-friendly by potentially increasing the number of people who take transit and reducing the number of cars needed (more walking, biking and transit means less congestion, too). Granted, that means our local and state governments need to be doing more to expand our transit capacity, but the point is that transit goes where the people are. Creating dense, vibrant business districts across the city benefits can have numerous benefits to the city.

This issue of minimum density development emerged last year when single-use, low-density developments were proposed in neighborhood business districts better suited for mixed-use development. For example, in the case of a proposed drug store in Wallingford, the single-story pharmacy with adjacent parking lot and drive-through window did not fit the vision outlined in the Neighborhood plan for a more dense transit and pedestrian-oriented neighborhood business district.

As a result of public concern over these developments in neighborhood business districts, interim regulations were enacted on September 16, 2013 to halt similar future developments while the Department of Planning and Development worked on permanent regulations to address the underlying issue.  Now, with the interim regulations due to expire and DPD ready with their proposed permanent regulations, Council is poised to take up the legislation in September. The new regulations largely reflect the interim regulations, with a few additions.

In short, the bill would require that new development in pedestrian-designated areas of officially zoned “Urban Centers,” “Urban Villages,” or “Station Area Overlay Districts” be built to at least half the allowed maximum density or “floor area ratio (FAR)” in that zone.  Projects of lower density (for example, a single story store with a parking lot), won’t be allowed in these areas. Take a look at this map and the bold black lines that designate where these new regulations will apply.Areas where minimum density regs will apply

We don’t want or need minimum density everywhere, but by ensuring we get density in our priority pedestrian-oriented areas, we ensure we are creating great walkable, transit-friendly hubs both downtown and in our neighborhoods.

If you’re interested in the details, here are some additional resources:

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