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City Council, March 8

Gathering Place moratorium extended for more study
Another effort to improve traffic flows
Marc Knapp

At a City Council meeting earlier this year, Mayor Tecklenberg noted that he had not met anybody that liked the Gathering Place (GP) zoning. A new and much modified GP zoning was before Council last night. It still had few friends. The zoning, now called Mixed Use 3 – Centers (MU-3/C) is to be studied further and the moratorium of new construction in GPs has been extended to 60 days.

Staff made a presentation on the modified zoning and noted the many proposed changes. Importantly it had reduced density, provided for more scrutiny and created more demanding conditions for traffic and parking. Developers also had incentives particularly in relation to green and open space. These incentives would allow developers to achieve higher densities than that for base cases. The amended ordinance extends to 20 pages and with its cross outs and insertions is a daunting read.

It didn’t make any difference. There was no support for the amended ordinance. Many citizens spoke in Citizens Participation and were generally damming. The most critical was County Council member Qualey who though the whole concept should be scratched. He and others thought that some of the incentives outlined in the ordinance should be mandatory. One citizen also calculated (we cannot check her math) that the maximum density in the new ordinance could be higher than that in the old if a developer were able to utilize all of the incentives.

A few of the citizen members of the panel charged with shaping the new ordinance spoke of their efforts. Maybe the end result was not satisfactory, but it was much better that is would replace. The panel comprised City Planning staff, citizens, non-profits and developer representatives. It also included three Council members, Gregorie, Wilson and Moody. Interestingly, these Council members were not satisfied with the amended ordinance.

At the prodding of Council member Gregorie, Council agreed to refer the proposed ordinance to the appropriate Committees for review – Community Development and Traffic and Transportation. The hearings of these committees were open to the public and their comments. It was expected that the Committee reports would come back to Council before the end of 60 days - when the moratorium on
new construction in the GP zoning would expire.

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I have lost count of the number of times I have spoken at City Council meetings of the need to better coordinate traffic signals. My particular criticism has been along Highway 17 south of the City. Most of my pleas were ignored though on one occasion Mayor Riley defended the system and the expert advice the City had received. I also remember some 5 to 6 years ago being taken by then Council member Morinelli through the Traffic Management Center on Lockwood Boulevard and the assurances of the fine control the City had of traffic flows.

Ha! If the traffic control of the City minimizes congestion, how bad would it be without it? Well, its seems that the City recognizes that all is not well and last night Council approved a $505,000 study by Stantec Consulting called the Traffic Signal Retiming Project. It will start soon and be completed within about 12 months. As well as retiming, it will make recommendation on new lights and the nature of controls at certain intersections. Let’s hope that the result is better than that flowing from previous studies.

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Council did not like the resolution n before it relating to the presence of the Confederate flag in the Summerall Chapel at the Citadel. State Senator Kimpson has proposed as bill that would allow directors of colleges in the State to remove confederate flags if they voted to do so. Effectively the ordinance would circumvent the ordinance that presently stops the Citadel from removing the confederate flag displayed in the Chapel. Council was supportive of the Citadel’s intention to remove the flag but the majority of Council were not happy about the State wide circumvention. Was this the business of the City? What could be the wider consequences?

Council agreed to take out the offending clause. But is our opinion, it really make little difference. The resolution still supports the Senator’s bill and which essentially does what the deleted paragraph describes. Press Download file to see the original resolution. The 5th paragraph “Whereas, this Bill if approved …. "" is the one deleted.

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Citizens may be interested to learn that the City’s General Fund may be burdened in future by allocations for Affordable Housing. In the past, the City has relied on HUD funds (CDBG and Home Funds) to provide money for affordable housing. But HUD monies have been decreasing and the City’s own demands on HUD funds have created a hole in that available for Affordable Housing.

Council member Mitchell, Chair of the Community Development Committee drew attention to the problem and asked that the City step up to make up the annual shortfalls which he estimated at about $400,000. He got a sympathetic response from the Mayor. Nothing was decided last night but it will be an issue in future.

The HUD funds allocated to the City for 2016-2017 are CDBG, $903,000, and HOME, $482,000 . Press Download file to see how the funds have been allocated.

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