City rezoning would not require parking in new ‘transit zones’

City planners Tuesday night unveiled a first-draft rewrite of the Providence zoning code intended to modernize and clarify local land-use rules while encouraging some new urban development. More

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City rezoning would not require parking in new ‘transit zones’

PBN FILE PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
A DRAFT REWRITE of the Providence zoning code proposes lowering parking minimums for residential buildings citywide from 1.5 parking spaces per housing unit to 1 space per unit, and would allow shared parking in mixed-use areas. The ordinance would also create new transit zones with no residential parking minimum.
Posted 3/5/14

PROVIDENCE – City planners Tuesday night unveiled a first-draft rewrite of the Providence zoning code intended to modernize and clarify local land-use rules while encouraging some new urban development.

The proposal, the first comprehensive revision of the zoning ordinance in 20 years, would lower parking minimums for residential buildings citywide from 1.5 parking spaces per housing unit to 1 space per unit.

It would also allow shared parking in mixed-use areas and require bicycle parking in new construction.

Nationally, parking minimums have been targeted for reduction or elimination by land-use-reform advocates for encouraging suburban sprawl and raising housing costs.

The draft ordinance would also create a new “transit-oriented development overlay district” with no residential parking minimum and allowed building heights up to 70 feet.

Exactly where in the city those transit districts – or any zones under the rewrite – will be located is unknown. The new zoning map accompanying the new code is still being drawn.

However, Director of Long Range Planning Bonnie Nickerson said the city is looking at two transit zones along planned bus lines on North Main Street and Broad Street.

Planners hope to implement the new zoning code, with City Council approval, in the fall and intend to host a series of public meetings to gain feedback and generate further revisions over the summer.

Although the rezoning does relax some limits on development, the overriding theme in a presentation to the public on Tuesday was tailoring the zoning code to the built environment that already exists instead of using it to change it or stimulate growth.

Allowable building heights in many districts will rise 5 feet in the proposal - to 45 feet in multi-family residential zones and 50 feet in commercial zones.

To eliminate uncertainty about whether certain activities are allowable in different areas, the proposal spells out a number of new use categories such as micro-breweries, helipads and tattoo parlors (“body modification establishments”). Temporary uses like farmers markets would also be regulated.

The city also wants to break out often controversial drinking and entertainment spots into new categories including nightclub, live performance venue and ancillary live entertainment, with retail alcohol sales a separate use.

Existing corner stores in residential areas, now non-conforming, would be allowed.

The draft includes illustrations to make it easier to understand design guidelines.

To download the proposed ordinance, visit http://rezoningprovidence.com.

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