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NoMa heights remain pivotal

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Salting the start of a new round of discussions, Rodman Jordan, the primary figure in the North of Main district, disagrees with a Park City Planning Commission recommendation to restrict the heights of buildings in the district to 45 feet.

Jordan on Oct. 6 sent Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council a one-page letter describing his opposition to the height limit, saying that the 45-foot benchmark "directly conflicts" with ideas to re-energize the district, often called NoMa.

The City Council on Thursday began its talks about a package of proposed changes to the development rules in NoMa, which is centered along Bonanza Drive but stretches through much of the northern part of the city.

The key provision in the changes would regulate building heights. Currently, developers are usually allowed to put up buildings 35 feet tall. If they are within a larger project, the city, however, does not now restrict the height, relying on the Planning Commission to determine an appropriate height.

Under the proposed rules, buildings as tall as 45 feet could be built if they are designed with a pitched roof. The City Council agreed with the 45-foot restriction.

The dispute regarding a height restriction has been the most notable of the NoMa discussions, with Jordan arguing for taller buildings and neighbors saying that they do not want a skyline blocking their views and casting shadows on their places.

Jordan, who has business interests in NoMa, claims that, to encourage unique designs, slightly taller buildings should be allowed. Previously, a 50-foot limit was considered but five feet were whittled off.

Jordan declined to comment at length after the City Council discussion. In his letter, he argues that the taller buildings would tighten development instead of forcing people to spread their projects over a parcel and would allow developers to build plazas.

Taller buildings, he says in the letter, are "critical to creating a vibrant and appealing neighborhood where people live, shop, work and play."

He says in the letter that he prefers that the City Council ask that the Planning Commission reconsider the height limits "with instructions for them to foster urban vertical development instead of suburban sprawl."

The Thursday meeting follows two weeks after the Planning Commission advanced the proposed changes, which would be added to the city’s General Plan, a document that outlines how City Hall wants the community to grow. The City Council must also endorse the changes.

During Planning Commission hearings, which drew sizable crowds, there were several camps, including the worried neighbors and businesspeople wanting the NoMa district to become more vibrant.

Led by Jordan, the supporters envision the district becoming a happening spot, full of boutiques, restaurants and attractions. The district now is seen by many Parkites as a place for day-to-day tasks like food shopping and doing their laundry.

Jordan wants the district to offer trendy shops, loft-style living and people milling about.

There was discussion on Thursday about the makeup of retailers, with some wanting 60 percent or more being owned locally. Jordan sees the district offering a mixture of local retailers and those that are known nationally and internationally.

The Planning Commission, meanwhile, wants stores and other commercial tenants limited to 10,000 square feet with exceptions for grocery stores and movie theaters. There are not limits now but the size of a parcel restricts the size of a business.

A hearing was not scheduled on Thursday and the City Council plans to take testimony on Oct. 19. A third meeting, which tentatively includes another hearing, is scheduled on Oct. 26.

In previous Planning Commission hearings, neighbors were displeased with the potential of taller buildings, they had worries about traffic and some people were concerned that NoMa could someday draw business away from Main Street.


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