Exceptions to the rules: How PUDs, administrative deviations change landscape

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

The Black Sheep Restaurant on the corners of Margaret and Oak streets in Five Points made extensive use of one. Goozlepipe & Guttyworks on King Street in Riverside did not. Mellow Mushroom in Avondale was going to, but decided against it. The one from 1661 Riverside has people confused.
The Planned Unit Development (PUD) is one tool developers can access when they seek modifications to regular zoning laws and the Riverside/Avondale Overlay. Administrative Deviations (AD), Waivers, Variances and Exceptions are also at their disposal.
“The PUD format sometimes makes it a lot easier to make better use of a unique space,” said Allan DeVault, co-owner of Black Sheep. “Some restrictions of the Overlay would have made it challenging to develop that property without a PUD. It provides you a lot more give-and-take than an AD.”
But Riverside Avondale Preservation officials have a different perspective.
“PUDs are not good for our city,” said Carmen Godwin, executive director of RAP. “The kind of spot zoning where you write your own story overrides the planned zoning for the area. The Overlay should have eliminated the need for deviations. They shouldn’t be granted unless there’s a good reason. They really should be the exception to the rule and not something common throughout the district.”
A PUD is a type of rezoning that provides flexibility in planning, design, development and innovative approaches to the design of community environments, according to Bruce Lewis, city planning supervisor.
“Their purpose is to allow for a mix of uses that you can’t find in a conventional zoning district. For example, residential and commercial adjacent to each other,” Lewis said.
They are specific to a particular property and stay with that property even through an ownership change. Unlike AD’s, waivers, exceptions and variances – all of which target one specific rezoning request – PUDs cover multiple deviations and categories and they are all vetted through the city council rather than just the planning commission.
The perfectly developed PUD is a collaborative effort between city, neighborhood, preservationists and developer. In Black Sheep’s case, the PUD restricts amplified music on the roof top terrace to no later than 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after midnight Friday and Saturday. “That was a condition the residents wanted,” Godwin noted.
Other conditions were not as easy to come by. “We didn’t want as big a building and we wanted more set back,” Godwin said, acknowledging that, because Five Points is in an Urban Transitional zoning area, the 45-foot building height complies with standards and the restaurant did not have to provide any set back.
Black Sheep nonetheless made provisions for the Overlay, Lewis said. “The footprint stayed the same, but they modified a number of architectural designs such as window moldings, cornices and decorative trim.”
Be that as it may, Godwin feels the planning department often works against the best interest of the Overlay. “It starts with the planning staff and they take their cue from the government leadership. We feel they sometimes ‘give away the farm.’”
Regardless of the planning department’s role, another point of collaboration from Black Sheep involved parking: The Urban Traditional parking requirement for a 45-foot or less building is 25 percent of regular zoning, so, in their case, 21 spots. They have met that requirement and have elected to include an additional 11 that is not actually in the PUD. They also provided three bike racks.
“They proved that they could be trusted outside of the scope of the PUD,” Godwin said. “They are positive for the neighborhood.”
Godwin feels that what would also be good for the neighborhood is developers using AD’s, waivers, exceptions and variances rather than PUDs.
“With PUDs sometimes it feels like it’s, ‘give me the world, then we will negotiate down from there,’” Godwin said. “The AD makes it easier for the community to understand what is being requested. They’re just far less
Goozlepipe & Guttyworks’ developers agreed, using an AD to allow off-site parking, an exception for outside sale of alcohol and a variance for landscaping.
“A PUD just wasn’t appropriate in our case because we weren’t using mixed zoning categories,” said co-developer Ed Salem.
Mellow Mushroom developer John Valentino recently reached the same conclusion, withdrawing his PUD submission and instead proceeding via AD’s and exceptions.
We are optimistic that we can address the neighbors’ concerns regarding parking or anything else without having to do a PUD,” said Mellow Mushroom’s attorney, Steve Diebenow. “But PUDs are not the problem. The perception that ‘one size fits all’ is the real issue.”
Parking concerns are something 1661 Riverside developers thought they addressed in its PUD, but the wording has some people confused.
he issue is whether their garage parking is open to the public. There are clearly marked signs in the garage restricting the lot to customers and tenants. Others receive a note on their windshield indicating that it is a private lot.
The PUD states, in part, “The parking garage will be open to the public and on street parking…will be available. Free parking will be available to commercial tenants and customers on the ground floor of the parking garage.”
Some interpret this as being open to the public – customer, tenant or not. Godwin’s interpretation is that the garage is open to the public, but they can charge; if you are doing business in the building, it is free. A visit to the site provided proof that 1661 does not charge. Lewis concluded that the development is in compliance by allowing only customers and tenants to use the garage.
Another 1661 PUD issue revolves around a pedestrian throughway from Margaret to May streets. As per the PUD, it is identified with a sign, but it is too small to see from the street. Also, the gate, which should only be locked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., is often secured at other times. These are easy fixes, but they do lead to confusion and accusations of non-compliance.
“This is exactly why PUDs are so dicey,” Godwin said.

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