There will be a public hearing on Ordinance #27-10 (Proposed Area Plan Commission Zoning Changes for West Lafayette) at this Monday's West Lafayette City Council Meeting - 6:30 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall. Ordinance #27-10 is an attempt to align the urban zoning plans of Lafayette and West Lafayette. Building heights would rise. Parking requirements would be reduced to zero in some cases.
As I said at the Monday night meeting of the New Chauncey Neighborhood Association, my objection to the ordinance is two fold. I object to some of the specific proposals in the ordinance. I object to the process which brings this ordinance forward at the same time New Chauncey is in the midst of developing a Land Use Plan for the neighborhood.
To begin, I am puzzled by the assertion made in defense of the ordinance that there is a parking SURPLUS in urban West Lafayette. We recently spent several months debating a towing ordinance for West Lafayette. At that time the city administration and a city council majority agreed that parking spaces were few and precious and needed therefore to be protected not only by the police, but by vigilante towing operators.
Was this incorrect? Will not the owners of the new, higher, denser, mixed use projects predicted for the Village do what business folk always do, and externalize risk while they internalize profits? Will they increase their costs by building parking structures or simply push the parking problem into the near campus neighborhoods? Will the city or the Redevelopment Commission foot the bill for new parking garages?
Purdue University is offered as the site of much of the "surplus" parking. Is this legitimate? Has Purdue agreed to offer parking for local business? Overnight parking? Those of us with permits already scrounge for space during the day.
Planned Developments or "PD's" are presented as evil in the discussion of the ordinance revision. Panda Express is a PD. I think it looks great. Apparently the developer did not consider the process of presenting facade and parking and green space design plans to city council particularly onerous.
This public presentation of design plans disappears in the ordinance revision. It is left to the city's "Administrative Officer" (the City Engineer) to certify the building plans meet zoning requirements. Period. This review is said to be more efficient. I believe it would lead to rubber stamping the plans of developers. The recent home demolition on Hayes St., in a National Register Historic District, was rubber stamped. I am opposed to this provision as well.
I am disturbed too by the six story buildings proposed for Northwestern Ave. across from Mackey Arena. I do not believe such higher end mixed use projects will "protect" the neighborhood. I believe they will lead to further zoning changes which would eliminate single family homes between Northwestern and Grant, and discourage single family home ownership between Grant and Salisbury.
I object as well to the timing of this ordinance revision. In May of 2009 City Council voted to invite the Area Plan Commission to develop a land use plan for New Chauncey. The process, though tilted toward business owners and rental corporations, began well enough. It has stalled recently. Several months have passed since it last met or delivered any meaningful communication.
Now comes this plan which changes New Chauncey zoning prior to the completion of the land use study. It has been argued that this will be helpful in informing our deliberations. But what if we deliberate and decide we don't want six story buildings and their attendant traffic and parking problems? Too late.
Worse even than that, the members of the land use study committee are to have a special informational meeting of the committee on November 10th. to hear Mr. Bumbelberg present - ironically - a PD proposal for Northwestern Ave.! Will the Steering Committee for the proposed Historic Commission have the same access? The "cart-before-horse" metaphor is simply not strong enough!
This whole affair is the reason why people are suspicious of politics. I will vote "no" on this ordinance. I will vote to send it back to the Area Plan Commission. I hope you will share your thoughts with the City Council this Monday night.
A copy of a "white paper" on the issue which includes a copy of the proposed ordinance appears below in a "Scribd" file.
WL Zoning Changes