City Council reverses Planning Commission on Rawles master plan appeal
Taking a different view than Planning Commission had, City Council voted Feb. 26 to let a group of long-time property owners off Mesa Road submit a master plan for an area they call the Rawles Open Space Neighborhood (ROSN).
The majority in the 5-3 vote agreed that even though the group, which also calls itself ROSN, has not won over the owners of all 38 properties - and has evidently alienated some of them - they do have the right under the City Charter to give the plan a try.
“I support this neighborhood group having the opportunity to go through a process to engage all the neighbors, led by the city, and to come back with a plan,” said Councilmember/ President Pro-tem Jan Martin. “If we don't like the plan when it's done and everyone's worked on it, that's a whole other conversation.”
ROSN had appealed the Planning Commission decision to council. Members of that body's majority had expressed concern that ROSN had not reached out sufficiently to the entire neighborhood and that a draft plan (albeit unofficial) had implied a wish to restrict development on lots that are currently vacant.
The council majority appeared reassured by statements from Peter Wysocki, the city planning director, and Steve Tuck, the planner assigned to the issue. “It's highly unlikely,” Wysocki said, that staff would approve a plan “that would prohibit somebody from building on their vacant property.” He added that the goal would be “to work with the homeowners to build consent.”
A master plan is not a binding document like a zone designation, but once in place can be used to support a zone change, city planners have previously explained.
Scott Hente, the council president, joined the minority vote. Addressing the ROSN members in the audience, he reminded them that he had supported them three years ago in denying a five-unit development on five acres that the group had thought was too high-density for the neighborhood. “But I think you've gone a bridge too far on this,” he said. “You're treading on property rights a little bit. I worry about the message we're sending.”
James Kin, the principal speaker for ROSN (as he had been at Planning Commission), told council he believed he had support from 26 of the 38 property owners in the defined area, which is between Uintah and 19th streets. He had initially told the commission in November that he had 35, although not in writing.
Five property owners spoke in opposition at the meeting, with most noting that they already have deed restrictions and zoning to limit how or where they can build. A common thread in their criticism was the draft plan - particularly its call for a 100-foot setback from Mesa Road - which would make construction impossible in certain cases.
There were also accusations that the main agenda for ROSN - whose members are unelected - is to control development on the vacant lots.
In his comments, Kin said that wasn't the case and insisted that the draft was only meant as a starting point for discussion.
Putting it out there was “a mistake” that he wouldn't repeat if he had to do it over again, he said.
But the 15-year resident made clear his passion for preserving the neighborhood's rurally styled character, in keeping with efforts by residents/property owners who have lived there even longer. He was concerned that newer property owners don't understand that history. “One way to assist us in educating them would be a master plan,” he told council.
Included in the neighborhood character, he explained, are homes far apart from each other and the road; “low profile” home designs; the privately donated 7-acre Rawles Open Space from which the neighborhood took its name; a hiking trail along the road instead of a sidewalk along Mesa; and a lack of curb and gutter.
Westside Pioneer article