“I think a great job has been done on this, I think it’s a great step forward,” said Mayor David Brown.  City Councilors were invited to participate in the joint meeting.

Under the new guidelines, the maximum height on new Mall buildings would be lowered to 70 feet by right, down from 101 feet, though the latter height could still be built with a special use permit.

Street walls on the mall could be no taller than forty feet, with a minimum step back of twenty-five feet once the building rose above that height. A street wall is defined as the portion of the wall that adjoins the street.

The new proposals would also institute a thirty-five foot minimum height. The density of 87 housing units per acre by right would not change, and neither would the allowance of 200 housing units per acre by special use permit.

“We don’t think that these proposals affect the ability to do densities,” said Jim Tolbert , the City’s Director of Neighborhood Planning.

Some members felt more attention needs to be paid to the intersection of Ridge-McIntire, West Main and Water Streets, and also desired a minimum three-story floor requirement for buildings on the Mall.

Buildings on both sides of Water Street would be restricted to a 70 foot street wall. A special use permit could be filed if a developer wanted to go higher, though that would require a step back, the size of which would be determined on a case by case basis. Buildings on the south side of Water Street would be required to be set back from the road by five feet in order to promote a wider sidewalk to encourage pedestrian access.

For a sense of scale, the Water Street parking garage is 70 feet tall.

Under the proposal heard Tuesday night, South Street between 2nd Street East and 2nd Street West will also be restricted to a 70 foot street wall, with the same option for 101 feet under a special use permit.

On South Street from 2nd Street West to Ridge Street, the allowed height would be lowered to 45 feet on the south side, and 70 feet on the north side. Buildings on the north side would require a step back of 25 feet. Some members were concerned that this would restrict future development of the region.

The proposal also changes the zoning ordinances for the West Main corridor all the way to the University, though each side of the street would have different guidelines. On the south side, buildings would have a fifty foot street wall, and anything over that would need a 25 foot step back, up to 70 foot by right, and 101 with a special permit permit. Any thing receiving a special unit permit would need to use a sun angle of 38 degrees to determine the appropriate step back. That corresponds to the angle of the sun during spring and fall.

“If we’re looking to increase densities, this is an area where opportunities may present themselves,” said Tolbert.

On the north side, a 50 foot street wall could be built, with a 70 foot maximum after a 25 foot step back. Buildings on this side would also need to have a minimum of two stories.

All of the step backs in the proposal are consistent. “We wanted to get away from the wedding cake approach, where we have now. Currently you have a 10 foot step back that goes up a couple floors, then it goes up five more feet, goes up, then it’s five more feet,” said Tolbert.

The proposal will now be sent back to the advisory committee, who will make the changes. Once approved by a joint meeting of the BAR and Planning Commission, a public hearing will be scheduled.  That likely won’t occur until the July Planning Commission meeting at the earliest.

Sean Tubbs