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Author Topic: How to encourage economically feasible development, not sprawl  (Read 4420 times)
PonderInc
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« on: April 03, 2015, 11:16:27 am »

Lawrence, KS does an interesting thing to encourage developers to meet certain stated public goals.  Their zoning code allows for "development bonuses" for meeting those goals, which can be "redeemed" for greater flexibility in certain requirements (allowing greater density, building height, reduction in required parking, etc).

For example, you can earn bonuses by locating your development:
 - within 1/2 mile of a fire station
 - within 1 mile of a police station
 - within 1/4 mile of a park or public space
 - in an existing commercial or nonresidential center with adequate utility and transportation Infrastructure to support redevelopment
 
Or you could earn bonuses by providing a combination of housing types:
 - non-ground floor units
 - live/work units
 - attached dwellings
 - zero lot line dwellings

Or for ensuring environmental benefits such as:
 - green roofs
 - LEED building certification
 - following stormwater best practices

It's an interesting way to encourage development patterns that make the city more economically viable.  Every one of these options helps the city.  Reducing stormwater, reducing the need to provide additional services and amenities, and encouraging development and increasing the tax base in areas where the infrastructure is already built.
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dsjeffries
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2015, 12:59:53 pm »

Arlington Virginia built a bonus system into their zoning code to encourage mixed uses and density:

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/openhouse/development/the-audacious-plan-to-turn-a-sprawling-dc-suburb-into-a-big-city.php
Quote
...Next, officials adopted a “bull’s-eye” strategy of concentrating larger buildings around Metro stations and tapering down density as development moved out toward neighborhoods of single-family homes. In the buildings near Metro stops, Arlington County pushed developers to accommodate a mix of uses—a restaurant or store on the ground floor, condos upstairs, office space next door—in order to give each neighborhood the feel of a city center. Parks, bike paths, and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes were prioritized.

The holistic approach worked because Arlington had leverage over developers. “We used our zoning tool,” says Bob Duffy, the county’s planning director. Bureaucrats couldn’t force the private sector to construct the skyline it wanted. But if a developer agreed to build in accordance with Arlington’s urban, mixed-use vision, the county would lift its density caps and allow a larger or taller structure than regulations typically permitted. Bigger buildings, of course, mean greater profits; the developers bit.

The urban villages that proceeded to sprout up around the Clarendon, Court House, and Ballston Metro stops became magnets for an emerging generation of residents: commuters fed up with Washington traffic, car-spurning millennials, empty-nesters downsizing from cul-de-sac homes to condos. By 2014, the county’s population had jumped 50 percent from 1980, to 229,302. Property values surged, and new businesses opened.

Today, Arlington has more office space than downtown Dallas, as well as the country’s highest concentration of 24-to-34-year-olds. Despite all this growth, the county’s figures show that traffic has actually declined—by as much as 23 percent on some key thoroughfares—because 40 percent of those living in Arlington’s urban corridors take public transportation to work.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 01:03:00 pm by dsjeffries » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2015, 06:07:31 pm »

In personal conversations I’ve had with someone in the city planning department, it is very obvious the TMAPC and the Mayor’s office simply do not share the same vision with the people in the COT planning department.

Next mayoral election, we need to find and fund someone who finally gets that all new development is not necessarily good development.  We need to start seeding the council with like-minded candidates.  We also need people who can attract the kind of jobs and industries which would compliment the fabric of our city.

Since the mayor seeds the TMAPC with appointments, this is one way to start to turn the tide for better infill development via incentivizing that rather than subsidizing sprawl which simply does not even pay for its own infrastructure and public safety needs.

If Tulsa had been growing at 5% per year or so the last 20 years, all the sprawl might be paying for itself.  But then we’d have a huge backlog of infrastructure needs just like Austin does now.

We need someone who can finally lobby to get a public four-year single institution college program (Hello?? OSU anyone?).  With all the land surrounding OSU Tulsa, there is so much potential to attract students from outside the area and I don’t think you’d penalize Stillwater in the process.  Some students prefer the small college town experience, others would rather be in a larger city. 

Finally, let’s save our most lucrative incentives to attract higher paying jobs rather than more warehouse, retail, and phone centers.
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2015, 12:56:11 pm »

+1 Conan.

I've played Sim City, and it bares out a simple fact that City Planners have been harping on for decades: Growth for the sake of growth is a zero sum game. Going back in time, Tulsa would be far better off with rails instead of buses. We would be far better off with neighborhoods instead of the BA. We would be far better off with a collection of buildings between TCC and Boston Ave. than acres of mostly unused asphalt (~50% use on a busy day. Church is in session the south half is full. School in session the north half. How often at the same time? Never.).

But, we continue to pay for growth just for the sake of growth. There is no plan. There is the little blue bar indicating that we need to zone more light commercial so we plop down some roads, lay some pipe, run the wires and let them build. It's the 10 year old method of designing a city.

And jobs...

Again, there is a place and a time when you need to whore yourself out in any manner possible in order for your city to land jobs. But then there are times when you are under 5% unemployment and we need to consider if the jobs we are paying for and attracting are actually adding to the City. If we attract jobs that pay less than a living wage and the job holders are eligible for all kinds of government aid just to survive - then we are paying subsidies for the business to come to Tulsa, and then paying to subsidize the the workforce so the company can make larger profits. In short, we are turning our public investment into private profits and shipping it out of Tulsa.

I can't see how that is a net economic gain. It's the old tale that the accountant tells the owner that the factory is losing money on every widget that they produce and sell... so the owner demands that they make up for it in volume.
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Conan71
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« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2015, 08:32:05 pm »

I never understood the concept that: “If we lose a lot of money on one item, let’s keep charging the same amount on that item and do it one million times and we will make a killing!”

Only if the government makes that possible.
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2015, 07:39:08 am »

Growth for Growth's sake...it seems like it would be obvious that this doesn't work. Simply drive around Tulsa and look for the many strip malls and big box stores that were built less than a decade ago that are now out of favor/style and sitting vacant. This just creates a cycle of always chasing the new and newer, like trying to keep a leaky bucket full.

The result of this way of thinking is just more disposable land with uninspired development that the city must expand government service to reach while the tax base erodes on the older discarded Wal*marts and Quicktrips and strip malls.
 
Density allows for much smaller footprint with a larger tax base and reduced local government cost to serve. A fully utilized multi-story building can produce a lot more sales tax per acre than a strip mall or big box.

A small government republican mayor should be a champion of density, not sprawl.
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2015, 09:13:12 am »

Growth for Growth's sake...it seems like it would be obvious that this doesn't work. Simply drive around Tulsa and look for the many strip malls and big box stores that were built less than a decade ago that are now out of favor/style and sitting vacant. This just creates a cycle of always chasing the new and newer, like trying to keep a leaky bucket full.

The result of this way of thinking is just more disposable land with uninspired development that the city must expand government service to reach while the tax base erodes on the older discarded Wal*marts and Quicktrips and strip malls.
 
Density allows for much smaller footprint with a larger tax base and reduced local government cost to serve. A fully utilized multi-story building can produce a lot more sales tax per acre than a strip mall or big box.

A small government republican mayor should be a champion of density, not sprawl.


I have ranted about that blight in the past and it has been like hitting the snooze button.... I don't think this is all that tough a problem to solve - it's just getting the will to do so.


How about some ideas on how to create incentives to owners to NOT let these venues sit vacant for years on end?  Maybe something along the line of leaving the normal property tax structure in place for a building under the condition that it is "gainfully employed" - another concept we try so hard to apply to people to receive assistance but not corporations.

By gainfully employed I mean not vacant and decaying.  A building owner has a limited time - say 1 year? - to clean up and make presentable, then rent a facility to a paying customer.  After 1 year (the limited time), the property tax goes up by 25%.  The next year it goes up another 25%.  Each successive year of non-use another 25%.  When rented out to a paying customer - where verifiable, visible, legitimate, business activity of some sort occurs, the property tax goes back to its normal level - and NO retroactive property tax relief/refunds!!  The paying customer could be a non-profit or small business incubator type entity.  Rent can be nominal in those type cases - just as long as something is going on that keeps the place presentable, open, and operational.

Several desirable goals are accomplished with this approach.  First, the owner is incentivized (is that really a word? I don't believe it - sounds made up.) to keep the place rentable (another made up word), at least to some minimal level so it can be rented out.

Second, we will be much less likely to see absentee owners 'sit' on properties that are unusable eyesores for an extended period of time - nobody gets to wait for decades like they can now!  If they should just not pay the taxes, well the property will be back in circulation with a new owner much sooner than ever happens with today's way of doing things!  Seems like we discuss some downtown buildings that could benefit from this, too!!

This would be a 'self-cleansing' operation that would eliminate long term blight of these ridiculously overbuilt strip center nonsense locations.  If we could somehow tie the performance of the uninspired development (I love that phrase and am going to steal it from you and use it!!) to the official zoning structure that lets them happen, all the better!  Maybe a city 'rule' that evaluates development types and if a threshold of some number of 'types' is exceeded, that type is automatically taken off the list of allowable developments - can't build another one, since there are X number of empty ones around...use one of them!  Jail time for zoning board members who approve stupid sh$t would be good, too, but probably can't go quite that far...


Couple of cases from OKC area of 'alternate use' of space (since we like to lament how great OKC is comparatively).  Crossroads Mall shut down years ago.  For several years - and they may still be there - haven't been by in about two years - two local model train clubs (non-profits) rented a couple of stores at opposite ends of the mall for display setups.  They were open very limited hours - couple evenings a week and on weekends.  Were not charged much rent - pennies on the dollars, but they did fulfill the requirements above.  They got very cheap rent and had a lease term just like a regular business, so they couldn't just be thrown out on the street when the mall got a tenant that wanted that space.  Decay halted.


Can't Tulsa look at innovative ways of doing things like these???

« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 09:15:36 am by heironymouspasparagus » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2015, 10:53:35 am »


I have ranted about that blight in the past and it has been like hitting the snooze button.... I don't think this is all that tough a problem to solve - it's just getting the will to do so.


How about some ideas on how to create incentives to owners to NOT let these venues sit vacant for years on end?  Maybe something along the line of leaving the normal property tax structure in place for a building under the condition that it is "gainfully employed" - another concept we try so hard to apply to people to receive assistance but not corporations.

By gainfully employed I mean not vacant and decaying.  A building owner has a limited time - say 1 year? - to clean up and make presentable, then rent a facility to a paying customer.  After 1 year (the limited time), the property tax goes up by 25%.  The next year it goes up another 25%.  Each successive year of non-use another 25%.  When rented out to a paying customer - where verifiable, visible, legitimate, business activity of some sort occurs, the property tax goes back to its normal level - and NO retroactive property tax relief/refunds!!  The paying customer could be a non-profit or small business incubator type entity.  Rent can be nominal in those type cases - just as long as something is going on that keeps the place presentable, open, and operational.

Several desirable goals are accomplished with this approach.  First, the owner is incentivized (is that really a word? I don't believe it - sounds made up.) to keep the place rentable (another made up word), at least to some minimal level so it can be rented out.

Second, we will be much less likely to see absentee owners 'sit' on properties that are unusable eyesores for an extended period of time - nobody gets to wait for decades like they can now!  If they should just not pay the taxes, well the property will be back in circulation with a new owner much sooner than ever happens with today's way of doing things!  Seems like we discuss some downtown buildings that could benefit from this, too!!

This would be a 'self-cleansing' operation that would eliminate long term blight of these ridiculously overbuilt strip center nonsense locations.  If we could somehow tie the performance of the uninspired development (I love that phrase and am going to steal it from you and use it!!) to the official zoning structure that lets them happen, all the better!  Maybe a city 'rule' that evaluates development types and if a threshold of some number of 'types' is exceeded, that type is automatically taken off the list of allowable developments - can't build another one, since there are X number of empty ones around...use one of them!  Jail time for zoning board members who approve stupid sh$t would be good, too, but probably can't go quite that far...


Couple of cases from OKC area of 'alternate use' of space (since we like to lament how great OKC is comparatively).  Crossroads Mall shut down years ago.  For several years - and they may still be there - haven't been by in about two years - two local model train clubs (non-profits) rented a couple of stores at opposite ends of the mall for display setups.  They were open very limited hours - couple evenings a week and on weekends.  Were not charged much rent - pennies on the dollars, but they did fulfill the requirements above.  They got very cheap rent and had a lease term just like a regular business, so they couldn't just be thrown out on the street when the mall got a tenant that wanted that space.  Decay halted.


Can't Tulsa look at innovative ways of doing things like these???



The city puts in place zoning laws and other strict regulations that say you must do this and this and can't do that, in many instances these laws make it almost impossible to retrofit, or bring to new life older buildings. Would it then be right for the city to then say, btw we will punish you if you do not rent these places out?  All I have to do to see an example of that is the building off 11th that is still empty that we tried to put a business into, but found out we couldn't, partly because of minimum parking requirements.  Even many owners of properties I have spoken to are frustrated that the zoning and other regulations effectively make their properties unrentable.
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2015, 12:36:34 pm »

The "city" to "battle" on the sprawl itself isn't Tulsa.  Other than the northern and western areas development blew past Tulsa's fenceline long ago.  Tulsa needs to make it easier to develop not harder.  Builders hate building in Tulsa because it is so difficult and the ability to have a continuous flow of income is tough.

Jenks, Bixby, BA, Owasso are the cities that are whoring themselves out residential development that is creating the endless sprawl.
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2015, 01:07:23 pm »

The "city" to "battle" on the sprawl itself isn't Tulsa.  Other than the northern and western areas development blew past Tulsa's fenceline long ago.  Tulsa needs to make it easier to develop not harder.  Builders hate building in Tulsa because it is so difficult and the ability to have a continuous flow of income is tough.

Jenks, Bixby, BA, Owasso are the cities that are whoring themselves out residential development that is creating the endless sprawl.

There's still a lot of undeveloped land in Tulsa that could easily end up becoming sprawl if we choose to not act.
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2015, 04:31:34 pm »

The city puts in place zoning laws and other strict regulations that say you must do this and this and can't do that, in many instances these laws make it almost impossible to retrofit, or bring to new life older buildings. Would it then be right for the city to then say, btw we will punish you if you do not rent these places out?  All I have to do to see an example of that is the building off 11th that is still empty that we tried to put a business into, but found out we couldn't, partly because of minimum parking requirements.  Even many owners of properties I have spoken to are frustrated that the zoning and other regulations effectively make their properties unrentable.


Yeah...I left that part out - you have to have a city administration involved that has at least half a brain.  Part of that would be the "development type" I mentioned but you have to change city hall first. 

So, let's quit electing the clown show and do something different for a change!!

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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2015, 07:55:45 am »

There's still a lot of undeveloped land in Tulsa that could easily end up becoming sprawl if we choose to not act.

If you could complete a 200 lot development of middle-class single family homes within the boundaries of the city of Tulsa, where would you do it?  Has to be feasible to the point that builders would buy the lots and start building immediately.  AKA, just like the lot draws that have happened in the last few weeks for new developments in BA, Jenks and Bixby.
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2015, 10:08:30 pm »

As the planners the city hired told them, we have about a 15 year reprieve with the Tulsa Hills area (make that 10 at this point) then things will slow down drastically development wise for tulsa per the "sprawl type" development.  And if we haven't got our ducks in a row for good infill development and transit, we are screwed on many fronts, low growth in the city, high traffic (if the suburbs continue to grow), and high infrastructure costs.

But, per the original question.  My thought right now is education.  Ultimately it seems that it's about educating enough of the public to understand something about the subject and or somehow educating enough of the developers and the decision makers at city hall and elsewhere. Most people have absolutely no clue what so ever.  Even people I meet who are otherwise educated, engaged, informed on many topics are absolutely clueless about "zoning" and such and why we have what we have, or that there are other options.

And educating people who have not, like me and some others on here, talked about and learned about these things for years and years... well it's really hard and time consuming just trying to have a "conversation" with them here and there and thinking you can get it across to them.  Either they already get it, perhaps they may have lived before in a different more urban environment, or they have no clue and its practically hopeless when you talk to them for you realize just how little they know and how there is sooooo much they will have to be told in order to finally have that "ah ha" moment and get it.

Sometime this year I want to make a you-tube type video.  I think the right video having a conversation with images and examples could get people to have that "ah I get it, I see what your trying to say" moment far more quickly than just words could.  And though I have looked I have never found a video that is already out there that does that, they often kind of sorta get a few pieces out there but don't do it like I can envision.  I have tried making contact with people who I have been told also want to do this kind of thing but never get a return answer so now figure I will just do it myself.  

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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2015, 08:46:05 am »

I like the things you say and having lived in Tulsa before sprawl changed us like midlife changes our bodies, it makes good sense. You can educate everyone, you can educate leaders and still not achieve what you (we) want. This is a time of polarization, pro-growth vs anti-growth. Smart growth vs sprawl etc. Facts mean little. Comparisons with other cities are almost offensive to them. Mindsets are hard to change.

Find a developer who can make money, lots of money, under the zoning changes you propose and with the framework he/she has at hand and you change an entire community.
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2015, 08:49:17 am »



Find a developer who can make money, lots of money, under the zoning changes you propose and with the framework he/she has at hand and you change an entire community.

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!
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