Revised downtown plan put to vote

Mayor Tome Bates

The main issue on the agenda of tonight’s City Council meeting will be the fate of the Downtown Area Plan (DAP). Passed by the council last July in a 7-2 vote, the plan allowed for some taller buildings in the downtown core, but met resistance from both opponents of greater density and those advocating stronger provisions for affordable housing. Opponents gathered enough signatures to force the council to either rescind the plan or to place it on the June ballot for a citywide vote.

Tonight’s council agenda includes a vote on whether to rescind the plan. Since the resolution to rescind is sponsored by Mayor Tom Bates (shown above) and councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Laurie Capitelli — all supporters of the DAP last year — that resolution is assured passage. To replace the old scheme, mayor Bates proposed a new plan last week, which will also be voted on this evening. The mayor’s new plan can be seen on the City Council site.

The proposed new plan allows for three buildings of up to 160 feet in the downtown core and three of 140 feet. The old DAP allowed two buildings of up to 180 feet (and one could be 225 feet if it was a hotel). The old DAP further allowed four buildings of 120 feet and four of 100 feet in the core and outer core. The new proposal allows, in addition to the six tall core buildings, two of 120 feet in the outer core.

Public benefits, such as affordable housing and environmental requirements, are provided in the new proposal by the mayor’s fast-track planning process, which is dubbed the Voluntary Green Pathway. If developers don’t opt for the Green Pathway, their projects are subject to the standard development process.