Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things that would improve this lot coverage ordinance

I'd like to write a few things from my own perspective, so please don't take it as more than that. Right now we have a lot coverage ordinance that unfortunately doesn't really please quite a few of us. I thought I'd write this evening about potential changes that could improve it. Feel free to offer your own input.

1. Landscaping requirements. In downtown neighborhoods, with narrow lots, we feel the "pain" of an inadequately landscaped lot next door to us very quickly. The current ordinance doesn't have any real protections in this regard. Having even 4 or 8 feet of landscaping surrounding the lot lines would at least provide a benefit visually, and also in terms of storm water.

2. Allowing much more pavement than is necessary. 40% can be paved for parking, and an unlimited amount for hardscape--the question is why so much. Particularly on large lots, why would we want so much pavement? On a small tiny lot, I can see these percentages being problematic. Perhaps we should look at this in terms of allowing a minimum amount of parking on the lot. Perhaps adequate parking for 3 stalls of parking. If this is covered by front yard or side yard, why are we encouraging more of the backyards to be paved. If no front yard parking is available, then it is reasonable to allow backyard parking--but limits make sense.

Think of it this way--on a narrow lot that is 200 feet deep, 40% may provide 7 stalls of parking. Why on earth would we encourage this? Is our goal to stuff in the cars, or to revitalize neighborhoods? On a short tiny lot, a smaller percentage may not even allow space for 1 car. We have all sorts of lots. If defined in terms of stalls, the percentage may be on a sliding scale, but it would help us on preserving neighborhood character, especially if we had adequate landscaping requirements.

3. I think we should have a serious dialog about requiring permits to pave. We've seen a lot of yards get paved way beyond Provo's standards. If people know the rules before they start, things go much better. Given the impact all this concrete and asphalt have on our environment, storm water system, etc., I believe it could be a reasonable requirement, at the minimum fee.

4. Anything we do needs to incorporate the goals of the Vision 2030 planning. We want character in our neighborhoods, and I'm not talking about the kind of character that means lot line to lot line pavement.

5. Allow for differences in requirements by neighborhood preference. The challenges of many neighborhoods surrounding BYU and downtown make them much more worried about excessive lot pavement. Other neighborhoods further west or those in zones that require 10,000 foot lots may not be so concerned about what their neighbors do.

I feel like each of these ideas would benefit the ordinance, and allow us as citizens of Provo to create a better ordinance.

If you would like to review the petition and add your support, please click on the following link:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Provo--"green" or paved? That is really just one of the questions...

Over 5 years ago, our neighborhood led a drive to have our city council make a crucial change. Previously, property owners all over the city were able to pave up to 50% of a backyard for parking. Our own neighborhood, especially in South Joaquin, had been extremely susceptible to this. We have a lot of old homes that had been turned into duplexes, or even triplexes, and in order to get BYU approval, landlords had to have adequate off street parking. So--they paved a lot of back yards. There are several problems with this circumstance.

1. It creates much more of an urban hot zone. Temperatures run as much as 20 degrees higher over pavement than they do over green space.

2. Once paved, these yards almost never go back. They have no appeal to families searching for a home to purchase, since removing the pavement would be an enormous additional expense. As a result, the properties become a perpetual rental.

3. Once paved, these rental properties have more value, sell for more, and are very difficult to remove--when you actually want to remove them, such as in North Joaquin, where we want high density student housing built to replace old worn out homes.

4. We have a need in our neighborhood for more long term residents, more home owners, not for more rental property.

5. The city never required fencing, or adequate landscaping, which meant that these parking lots are eye sores to the neighbors, affecting in a negative way the property values of people living next door, or nearby.

Fortunately, we had a city council at the time that cared about the revitalization of our historic neighborhood, and agreed that this was a good choice for our future. As a result, the amount of land which was allowed to be paved was reduced to 25%.

I can't understate the role that we as a neighborhood played in this. Our efforts benefitted the entire city. Unfortunately, things have now moved the other direction. A different city council and administration have now pushed the percentage allowed in pavement for parking to be increased to 40% of all backyard space. In addition, they eliminated landscaping requirements, and they increased the amount of a front yard which could be paved. All of Provo's neighborhoods are going to be affected by this. It many not be fast (though i've already seen a back yard get new pavement on my street), but it will have an impact.

This legislation came at the request of one landlord. Yes--just one. He made the application, and the council agreed, with some modification. Get ready for more pavement. This goes against your votes in previous neighborhood meetings.

So, my friends, our efforts begin again. A petition has been prepared online for you to lend your voices towards if you support it. Click the link below.