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Parking proposal offers a new option for developers

Cody_Riddle_cropFrom reading recent stories and a column in the Idaho Business Review, there appears to be a misunderstanding regarding the parking requirements included in a proposed amendment to the Boise City Development Code.

Without debating the merits of the proposal, it’s important the public understand that the proposal does not require fewer parking spots for new multi-family developments. It simply offers a new option for developers who wish to offer fewer parking spots.

Developers who prefer to offer more parking for their customers still will have that ability.

The proposed amendment is a product of Blueprint Boise, the city’s comprehensive plan approved by the City Council in 2011, which calls for the creation of more walkable and bikeable development in order to maintain Boise’s high livability as the city grows.  Two goals of Blueprint Boise are to remove barriers and establish incentives for desirable development patterns.  The proposed amendment seeks to help realize those goals by giving developers a new tool to allow them to build denser, more pedestrian-friendly residences. It does not seek to mandate new standards that can’t be supported in the marketplace.

This model has been successful in and around downtown for years. In the heart of downtown, no parking is required with new development. Radiating outward, the minimum parking requirements are increased to ensure some parking is provided.

This does not mean parking is prohibited. Like the current proposal, it simply creates added flexibility. An example of this concept at work is the nearly complete Trader Joe’s project at Capitol Boulevard and Front Street. The ordinance did not require any parking. However, the developer felt the market demanded a certain number of spaces, and approximately 80 were provided. Another recent example is the well-publicized JUMP project located at 9th and Front Streets. Like Trader Joe’s, it was not required to provide any parking. However, the ordinance standards did not prevent the developer from providing nearly 700 structured parking spaces to meet their needs.

I encourage the public to learn more about the proposed amendment, which includes much more than parking standards. In fact, the amendment is intended to support and better guide multi-family residential development in a variety of ways, including a density bonus provision and an increase in required bicycle parking.

In addition to new allowances and incentives, there are several measures proposed to ensure neighborhood compatibility, including transitional setbacks for projects abutting existing single-family homes.  The proposal also includes a requirement for variation in product type or design in projects exceeding two acres.

The proposal was authored with significant public input. It was completed with the assistance of an outside consultant and a committee that included individuals involved in the planning and construction of local multi-family projects, neighborhood association representatives, architects and planners. Both the preliminary and final draft was distributed to public agencies and neighborhood associations for comment.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval at an advertised public hearing on January 13, 2014. The ultimate decision on the ordinance lies with the Boise City Council, which is scheduled to hear the proposal on March 11th.

Cody Riddle is Planning and Development Services planning manager for the city of Boise. 

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