PUD gets ironed out
Zoning addition gets language worked on at special meeting
Members of the Saratoga Town Council and the Saratoga Planning Commission met Tuesday to move the town’s proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance closer to a vote.
After ironing out some issues in the proposed language of the ordinance, the next step is legal review before the ordinance is voted on by council members after three readings.
If passed, the ordinance would allow the planning commission to approve development projects on a case-by-case basis without being required to engage in the process of zoning changes or subdivision.
According to the language of the ordinance, a PUD ordinance is intended to, “permit creativity and flexibility in site planning, building arrangement and land use relationships by permitting deviation from the requirement of this title while simultaneously insuring substantial compliance with the intent and purpose of (the town master plan).”
The ordinance would also allow for mixed use development, such as residential and commercial, which don’t fit into one zoning category.
According to Karl Smith of the planning commission, traditional zoning can be too restrictive and can be counterproductive to the development of the town. By giving the town flexibility in approving projects, the town would have more freedom to choose the types of projects that will improve the town’s development, he said.
The PUD would give the planning commission authority to approve projects–and even set standards such as aesthetic qualities–based on the merits of the project.
“We’re talking about choosing paint colors here,” Smith said. The town, he added, would also be able to ensure that projects approved under a PUD would incorporate standards for landscaping and green space.
PUD ordinances have been used in many other municipalities with great success, Smith added, citing examples of towns in Colorado that replaced mobile homes with two “microhomes” per lot, improving aesthetics and increasing available housing options for residents.
Such initiatives have been so successful, some in those towns were buying up trailer lots as investments in anticipation of the changes, Smith said.
But talk of expansion worried some attendees at the meeting.
Steve Wilcoxson, of the Saratoga Town Council, said that while he is completely in favor of a PUD ordinance, he did have concerns that too much growth too quickly might stretch thin the town’s infrastructure, especially the sewer system.
Wilcoxson pointed out that the town’s sewer system was designed to accommodate around 3,500 residents, and too much growth could put the city in a tight spot.
Others at the meeting shared Wilcoxson’s concerns, but pointed out that any future growth in the town would be sustainable.
Currently, the town’s sewer system has about 60 percent unused capacity given the estimated town population, Smith said, adding that should the town ever get to a point where there is no more unused capacity for the sewer system, grants would then become available for the town to expand its sewage treatment capacity.
After discussing the sewer issue for some time, the group discussed finer details of the ordinance. There were several points the town’s zoning officer, Dan Ferrin, felt should be clarified.
Though Ferrin was not at the meeting, his concerns were read aloud to the members of the group by Jon Nelson of the planning commission.
Nelson said Ferrin had written his concerns, which included the uses of a “sketch” as a document in the process, fee schedules and whether a developer should be required to meet with zoning officials prior to submitting a proposed plan, or whether a checklist would be sufficient.
Smith said “sketches” were an important part of the procedure and fought against having the use of sketches written out of the process.
Sketches, he said, were an informal document showing what a proposed project might look like, and were a good first step toward a useful design. Smith added that in many cases, a developer of a project may not bear the expense of hiring an engineer or architect to produce detailed drawings until they have an idea whether a proposed project would have a good chance of being approved.
Sketches, he said, allow developers to show a proposed project without the expense of hiring experts. Professional plans and drawings would be done later after the sketch, Smith said.
Requiring professionally-produced drawings and specifications for a project as a first step could exclude would-be developers with good ideas for the town from beginning the PUD process, he added.
After addressing the issues in the language of the ordinance, Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode said a draft of the ordinance would be sent to the town’s legal counsel for review.
After that review was concluded, the ordinance would then go through the process of three readings and a public hearing before the town council votes whether to adopt it.
Glode said he did not expect the first reading to be at the town council’s next meeting Sept. 5, but it might be ready for a first reading at the council’s second meeting of the month, scheduled for Sept. 19