This was a relatively quiet week in Council meetings. On Monday, Council passed a resolution to send the Parks and Recreation five-year levy renewal to the May 2023 ballot and approved an increased height limit for the planned residential development along 5th Avenue. On Wednesday, Council was briefed on the details of Urban Reserves planning.
I have written about the Parks and Rec levy in the past few weeks, and there isn’t more to report here. The council meeting lasted 12 minutes to approve the resolution.
The discussion of the height ruling for the Obie project on 5th Avenue elicited some comments from councilors concerned about the impact of the increased height on the view of Skinner Butte. Under existing code, the development would be restricted to 70 ft in height because the neighborhood falls within lower height limits than the rest of downtown due to its proximity to Skinner Butte. The lower height dates to the late 1960’s after Ya Po Ah Terrace was constructed and the city wanted to avoid any additional construction that would hide the view of this historic part of the city’s landscape.
The Obie Company is building an apartment complex with ground floor retail and requested authority to go as high as 100 feet in order to allow an additional story to make the construction financially feasible. These will be market rate houses and the additional story would add 75-100 units.
I think council has made the correct choice in approving this additional height. Schematics show that looking north along Oak and Pearl, the additional 30 feet has minimum impact on the view. Up close, even the two-story building on 5th blocks the Butte entirely. Additionally, we need housing; we’ve prioritized denser housing in downtown; and council will have the option of approving a mulit-unit property tax exemption (MUPTE) which would require either that a percentage of workforce housing be incorporated into the development or the developer pay 10% of project cost to support affordable housing. Finally, I will say that with or without a MUPTE, this development will produce property tax revenue, which is key to building the budget we need to support the services the community expects.
On Wednesday, Council was briefed on the Urban Reserves planning. This is a critical piece of managing our growth and creating a clear landscape and smooth process for identifying buildable land that could be incorporated into the urban growth boundary when the time comes. Both the City Council and the County Board of Commissioners must approve this plan because it calls for bringing rural property into the city boundary. The designated land remains rural under existing county code until it is brought into the city. The staff, assisted by a technical advisory committee, assessed property parcel by parcel, removing land that is unbuildable due to slopes or wetlands or because it’s public park, for example.
Before coming to council and the board, the plans were approved by the respective planning commissions of each jurisdiction. We will hold a virtual joint hearing on February 28th.