As 2023 begins, the Corcoran City Council is considering two ordinance updates that could make a significant impact on the city’s future. This has been in process since 2020, where it was originally conceived as an optional program for open space preservation but was ultimately rejected.
Council has set a goal to complete an update to the Planned Unit Development ordinance by the middle of this year. This part of code is often used by developers who desire flexibility from the standard zoning requirements. The proposed updates are intended to give the city a stronger voice in the discussions of these projects and better drive the values of preserving natural resources, wildlife habitat, and creation of usable open space. The council has been debating whether to make these elements requirements or leave them as options to be negotiated.
Specifically, the updates would require:
A 4/5 majority of the council to approve any PUD proposal.
A sliding scale of open space preservation required based on single family residential lot size, up to 15% of the buildable, upland area to be dedicated a permanently protected open space.
Greater levels of landscaping, especially as buffers, and incentivize the preservation of existing trees and the use of larger trees where plantings are made.
As drafted, the ordinance would establish points for each desired feature, and developments would be scored with an expectation that 75% of the available points would be needed to advance with a staff recommendation of approval to the city council. This would establish a mechanism to drive a concrete level of public benefit the city would receive.
There has been consensus on council that in most developments the ”benefits” the city receives in exchange for flexibility have largely been benefits for the users of the property and not the city at large. Often, developers propose things like the roads they need for their property to be accessible as public benefits to the rest of the city when in reality these are often more liabilities than assets.
Establishing a minimum threshold of points that accrue only for things actually valued would help to eliminate this problem. It would likely also slow development as marginal projects which could locate anywhere would likely not be able to meet the requirements, and cookie cutter development would likely flow to other locations. Instead, developments that can best and most creatively utilize the city’s natural resources would be favored due to the new requirements.
The opposite approach has been suggested by some, where the desired features are kept as a list to be referenced but no threshold mechanism or expectation is created. This would mean no more than the current list of desired benefits in code, which are largely ignored by developers. It would also mean the city continues to rely on a negotiation process stacked against the city to achieve its vision.
The most recent discussion on this topic can be found here:
The draft text of the ordinance amendment and images of the kinds of features intended to be treated as benefits can be found in this council packet:
There will be a Public Hearing at an upcoming Planning Commission meeting. I strongly encourage residents to attend and hear the discussion and contribute their thoughts and opinions- the time to make these changes is sooner rather than later.