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Planning Commission Meeting, July 12 (cont)

City gets its way with new height limitations

Ansonborough Field development near certain

Pat Jones who covers Planning

Well the city got its way. The Planning Commission voted to increase the allowable height for new construction in the Ansonborough Field area. The height limit will be 55 feet but if developers meet certain conditions, they will be allowed to add another story and buildings can rise to a maximum of 70 feet. However, the top story cannot exceed 50% of the footprint of the building with a maximum of 25% devoted to habitable space and the balance for mechanics etc.

The city argued that FEMA regulations necessitated the additional height limit. Regulations do not allow permanent residency on the ground floor, though it could be used for parking and storage. But the City said these uses were a waste of such valuable space. It wanted to see seating for restaurants, or retailing from barrows, say. So it came up with the plan that if a developer could guarantee such uses, the developer would be allowed to add to the top floor the equivalent of 25% of the ground floor space that was utilized in these ways. The City also said that the added height would improve the skyline that would otherwise look monotonous under the old ordnances.

There certainly were a number of people against the plan, some of whom spoke at a previous meeting of the Commission. Even those that spoke for the proposal had some caveats. Ansonborough residents made up the majority of opponents. They feared the impact of the development on their borough with more traffic and people, and the ruination of the skyline. Can the City's infrastructure bear any more traffic? But if there were a common thread of concern it was the attitude of the BAR and Zoning Boards to future requests by developers for variances. How can we be sure that the limit will be strictly imposed, they said? Look at what has happened in the rest of the City. The records of the BAR and Zoning Boards are not good and we have some dreadful structures as a result of their decisions. Even the Historic Foundation who spoke in favor of the change, was wary about what could happen if these bodies didn't enforce the height limits.

So we can now expect the City to move on Ansonborough Field. Goodbye to much of the green space that the City sorely needs. It seems the City is planning to build at both ends of the Field and leave the center as park. But it is not only Ansonborough Field that will turn under the developers hoe. We hear that developers are now moving to acquire property along East Bay Street to take advantage of the new height limits in the area. It seems the Commission has no fear as to what the City will look like in 10 years or so with the new height restrictions. But a lot of residents do.