MPS revison – section 8.4

The following comments on the MPS revision were submitted to ww by David Daniels. They are lengthy but worth sifting through. He includes suggested language for the new version.

The following are comments and proposed revised language on section 8.4: Comprehensive Development District. I have added further comments from what I sent you several months ago, although the proposed revised language (except for the section on retention of agricultural soil) is the same.

The policies as written may not achieve the ends sought and may not provide sufficient guidance on how the policies are to be implemented.

A developer owns 12 acres. He wishes to develop housing on 10 acres, four single family homes or buildable lots per acre. He believes there is a market for such homes/lots. Will the policy as written prevent such a development? What would the developer be required to do?

Section 8.4.4 (a) requires that “the proposal makes efficient use of land in relation to infrastructure requirements.” The Developer proposes to construct sewer and water lines up a road and branch off at each lot. A typical cookie cutter, ribbon development. Is that efficient use of land in relation to infrastructure? Would this proposal require clustering? If the Town wishes to require cluster development, or some other prescribed arrangement, then it should say so.

Section 8.4.4 (b),(c) and (d) say nothing about minimum dwelling units per acre.

Section 8.4.5. states that Council is to require developments to respond to “sustainability principles” and then states that the level of response shall dictate the number of dwellings units (up to 12) per acre permitted.

If the developer wants 12 units per acre then the response must be “exceptional” and “wide ranging.” But what if the developer does not want 12 units per acre, but just wants the minimum as of right lots, whatever that number may be. Does that mean the developer does not have to respond at all to sustainability principles, or at most, a half-hearted effort?

To the extent that responding to sustainability principles raises development costs or results in homes for which there is no market or make less profit for the developer, it may turn out that the RCDD policies as written discourages development of sustainability projects. In other words, the policy as written assumes that developers will want to be able to construct more units per acre and therefore they would have an incentive to incorporate more sustainable principles into the development. Is this assumption correct?

I do not know what developers are interested in doing. I suspect developers will decide upon projects based upon market demand and profit margins.

I have proposed below revisions to section 8.4.5. I have tried to revise this section to make it more “user friendly.” In other words, so that all parties (developers, planning staff, Council and residents) may understand better what is expected of them and what they can expect in future developments.

(These proposed revisions DO NOT address the issue of minimum lot size or minimum units per acre or more generally the the potential shortcomings discussed above.)

The additions I propose are IN CAPS; deletions are shown by placing them in brackets [ ]. My explanation for the proposed changes are italicized and indicated with **** and appear at the end of the proposed changes.

It shall be the policy of Council:
. . .

8.4.5 to require that all developments within the Residential Comprehensive Development District (RCDD) zone respond to sustainability principles and the level of response to these principles shall dictate the amount of residential dwelling unit density that shall be permitted. [The sustainability principles to be considered by Council shall include, but not be limited to the following:]

IN ORDER FOR AN APPLICANT TO BE GRANTED BONUS DENSITY, THE APPLICANT MUST DEMONSTRATE* WITH COMPETENT EVIDENCE** THAT THE PROPOSAL SATISFIES EACH AND EVERY CRITERIA LISTED BELOW AS MANDATORY *** AND ANY OTHER CRITERIA WHICH THE COUNCIL DETERMINES IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE PROPOSAL AND CONSISTENT WITH SUSTAINABILITY DESIGN PRINCIPLES.

IF THE APPLICANT CLAIMS HE OR SHE CANNOT SATISFY THE CRITERIA FOR ECONOMIC REASONS, THE APPLICANT MUST SHOW A REASONABLE RETURN IS NOT POSSIBLE BY COMPETENT FINANCIAL EVIDENCE.****

THE COUNCIL MAY CONSIDER GRANTING A HIGHER BONUS DENSITY TO THE EXTENT THAT THE APPLICANT SATISFIES THE CRITERIA LISTED BELOW AS OPTIONAL.

THE AMOUNT OF BONUS DENSITY GRANTED WILL DEPEND UPON THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL SATISFIES THE SUSTAINABILITY CRITERIA.

(a) [MANDATORY] the project provides buildings and site design that reduce the required operational energy requirements by a significant amount from conventional buildings. (e.g. district heating systems)

(b) [MANDATORY] the project provides buildings and site design that substantially reduce the impact on the environment through: [ONE ( ___) OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:]

• retention of natural systems
• [retention of Category 2 soils] [MANDATORY: I WOULD SUGGEST REPLACING “retention of Category 2 soils” WITH LANGUAGE WHICH FOLLOWS THE LANGUAGE CONTAINED IN THE ACTUAL PROVINCIAL STATEMENT OF INTEREST CONCERNING AGRICULTURE SUCH AS: “which do not eliminate the possibility of using the land for agricultural purposes in the future” [AND WHICH] “set[ ] out separation distances between agricultural and new non-agricultural development to reduce land-use conflicts”]
• use of renewable energy sources
• management of construction wastes
• reduced storm water run off
• water conservation
• waste reduction including solid waste and sewage
• use of environmentally sustainable materials
• use of certified Fair Trade products

(c) [OPTIONAL] the project provides an affordability component that would meet the need to provide housing Wolfville that is affordable and available for all sectors of society.

(d) [OPTIONAL] the project provides for alternative or shared housing and services models such as co-operative housing, co-housing, life lease, car pooling/sharing, district heating, etc.

(e) [OPTIONAL] the project provides barrier free/accessible housing units.

(f) [MANDATORY] the project demonstrates high quality architectural and environmental design that is compatible with the Landscape and that will contribute positively to the immediate area and the Town in general.

(g) [OPTIONAL] the project provides a mixture of housing types and densities as well as a variety of housing designs

(h) [OPTIONAL] the project provides public or private amenities such as parks, walkways, pubic art, daycare, cultural venues, and public gathering spaces.

(i) [[MANDATORY] the project provides active transportation routes and amenities.

(j) [MANDATORY] the project provides access to public transport.

—————

Explanation for changes:

*It should be clear that the burden is upon the Applicant to show he or she has satisfied the various criteria.

** “Competent evidence” This language will require the Applicant to show, not just make conclusory statements, that the criteria are being met. So for example, when the matter comes before a public hearing, the Town planners can say we approve this project because it has met all the required criteria, and here is the proof.

*** I have divided the criteria listed in subsections under 8.4.5 into two groups: mandatory and optional. The “mandatory” criteria are those which are “straight forward” and appear to be attainable to some degree in all projects which wish to be consistent with sustainable design principles. The “optional” criteria are those which a developer may wish to add, but are not necessary to make the project sustainability-friendly.

To further explain the distinction I have made, consider the criterion of affordable housing. The developer will either decide to include this or not. How could the developer “address” the issue of affordable housing? The obvious answer is that it does not make financial sense. It might only make financial sense if the developer is able to get more units per acre.

If my two-tiered approach is not acceptable, or does not make sense or is unworkable, I would suggest that a provision be added which states that reasons of “economic feasibility” are not an acceptable way to address the criteria.

****You may wish to delete this language altogether. However, it allows the developer to fall back on legitimate economic reasons which he or she must substantiate.

David A. Daniels
June 1, 2008

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