Downtown demolition ban extension sought by City Councilor Blake Ewing
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2013
1/11/13 at 7:45 AM
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A city councilor has proposed extending a temporary ban on demolishing downtown buildings for surface parking lots until the council can consider permanent restrictions in the zoning code.
A six-month moratorium took effect July 18 and is set to expire at the end of the month.
"It's basically just to put the brakes on and to say we're developing something that will affect downtown forever," Councilor Blake Ewing said during a council committee meeting Thursday. "Let's make sure nothing crazy happens in the next short period of time."
Planning Director Dawn Warrick said the city is drafting code amendments that would ban most new surface lots and create a stricter application and review process for businesses seeking to demolish buildings.
That would empower the city to preserve historic buildings after decades of watching its skyline erode, Ewing said.
"In my lifetime, what's gone away in downtown is a tragic loss," he said. "I think we want to see something that's a clear direction for the type of downtown that we want to have."
Extending the moratorium for six months should allow city personnel to finish the proposed code amendments during a time when "there has been a general murmur that some properties may be on the chopping block," Ewing said.
The moratorium, he added, will "keep someone from doing something ridiculous" before the council can consider any amendments.
Six months should also be enough time for the city to transition to a parking meter system that, if approved by the council at an upcoming meeting, would increase meter rates to as much as $2 per hour and extend their hours of operation, Ewing said.
The system would seek to encourage parking turnover and encourage downtown employees to park on surface lots or in garages, leaving curbside spaces for visitors.
Such a system would work in concert with demolition restrictions to increase demand for parking garages and encourage the development of existing surface parking lots, Ewing said.
Specific code amendments are in a "very draft" state and will be brought before councilors when they are more fully developed, Warrick said.
They could include limiting new surface lots to those serving an adjacent building but would not ban demolitions completely, rezone properties or affect existing surface lots, she said.
They would apply only within the Inner Dispersal Loop.
Changes in the demolition application process likely would include requiring businesses to explain the purpose of their demolition and "to make the public aware of what they're doing," Warrick said.
Ewing said the current process gives the city no say in what is built after the demolition and requires only a small amount of paperwork.
Several councilors at Thursday's meeting said they would support extending the moratorium, but Councilor David Patrick argued that doing so might be a turnoff to developers.
"To me, it sends the wrong message to developers, and developers are who build this town," he said.
Original Print Headline: Longer demolition ban sought
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
City Councilor Blake Ewing: "We want to see something that's a clear direction for the type of downtown that we want to have."