Rumors About the Comprehensive Plan: True or False?

As many residents know, the City is in the last phase of creating a comprehensive plan to guide land use and development for decades to come. As I’ve discussed here before, I feel very strongly that we need a comprehensive plan to guide the future growth of our city. However, I have serious concerns about certain aspects of the proposed plan, and believe some changes must be made before it is approved. If you haven’t read my concerns about the current draft of the project, you may do so here.

There have been rumors flying around about the comprehensive plan, and I want to set a couple of things straight.

RUMOR #1: “People criticizing this plan don’t want the City to adopt a comprehensive plan at all.”
FALSE. I obviously can’t speak for everyone who has concerns about this plan, but everyone I’ve talked with who is critical of the plan nonetheless supports the concept and wants to see it succeed. They just don’t like some of the aspects of the current proposal.

I for one am VERY supportive of developing a comprehensive plan to guide growth in our city. If I weren’t, I would not have served on the advisory committee, attended all the townhall meetings, and read the 454-page plan page-by-page. I want this plan to work, and I want it to be good. The right plan will be good for neighborhoods and developers alike. It will anticipate and guide growth while protecting stable neighborhoods. It will encourage greenspace, pedestrianism, and mass transit. My criticisms of the plan are reflective of my deep desire to get it right.

RUMOR #2: “People criticizing this plan are trying to derail the process.”
FALSE. Closely related to Rumor #1, this rumor is predicated on desire by plan critics for additional time to review this massive (450+ page) document.

This process is being rushed. The facts speak for themselves. With only two public meetings and no revised draft in hand, the Plan Commission was initially scheduled to approve this incredibly important and complex plan on April 6, and the Council not long thereafter. After I expressed my grave concern with this timeline, the schedule was revised to offer an extra month to review this dense document. Why are proponents so afraid of extra time to ensure we get this right?

The newest schedule, created last Thursday, is no better:

April 20 – First half of new draft of Comp Plan released. (Vision Statement and Policy sections.)
April 20 – Plan Commission briefed on Plan.
May 2 – Second half of new draft of Comp Plan released.
May 4 – Plan Commission briefed on Plan. Plan could be voted on by the Plan Commission on this date, even though they will have had only TWO DAYS to review the second half of the Plan (Implementation and Monitoring sections).
May 18 or 25 – Plan Commission votes on Plan.
Late May or early June – Council votes on Plan.

We MUST have additional public meetings and time to vet the most recent version of the document and determine whether residents’ input has been incorporated into the plan.

RUMOR #3: “Critics of this plan want to freeze our zoning as it is and oppose any changes.”
FALSE. Even the most die-hard neighborhood advocates I know agree that there are neighborhoods and areas in our city that need to be redeveloped. But we also need to recognize and protect those areas that are stable and successful. This plan, as of yet, pays lip service to quality neighborhoods, and doesn’t demarcate or protect them in any meaningful way.

Denver’s comprehensive plan shows very specific areas for stability and transition on their map. Minneapolis’ comprehensive plan map shows specific neighborhoods and areas to protect, areas that are redeveloping, and areas that need redevelopment. Why can’t our plan protect neighborhoods like these plans do?

RUMOR #4: “Critics of this plan oppose any new multi-family and only want to see single-family homes built.”
FALSE. We’ve got some great examples of good quality multi-family in District 14: West Village and Mockingbird Station come to mind. These are great mixed-use, transit-oriented developments.

However, we’ve also seen terrible failures like Vickery Meadows, where too many apartments clustered together in one area lead to increases in crime and put a burden on our school system. Nothing in this plan ensures that we would get West Village and not Vickery Meadows. Most of us agree that the city will necessarily increase in density as it grows. Let’s make sure that we ensure high-quality construction, focus on transit-oriented development, with low concentrations of multi-family so we don’t create slums.

Secondly, I do believe that the mix of multi-family versus single-family called for by this plan is setting us up for failure. Seventy-five percent of all new households built would be multi-family. Why would we want to encourage such an imbalance, when single-family homes have proved to be a stabilizing force for neighborhoods?