City Council Update on Smart Growth - Recent UDC Changes
The growth in Meridian needs to work for us in the long-run, with high quality development patterns. One of the most important and time-consuming projects on City Council the past year and 10 months was updating our UDC (our development code) to align with our comprehensive plan.
After almost two years of workshops and public outreach, on October 5th, we approved ordinance number 21-1950, formalizing a series of UDC changes we previously took voice votes on, some highlights were changes to our RV parking standards, landscape standards, and revised open space standards for single-family and multi-family developments.
You can find the text of the full ordinance here: https://library.municode.com/id/meridian/ordinances/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=1109715
Adequate Time to Review Revised Plans:
One of the most important updates coming out of our UDC revisions is a process change. Previously, some applicants were providing revised plans right before a hearing date, this resulted in insufficient time for the staff, the public, and the decision making bodies to review the changes. Now, the UDC changes should result in the applicant providing revised plans at least 15 days prior to the meeting.
Updated Landscaping Standards
The updates to our landscape standards encourage greater diversity of landscaping, offer alternatives for water-wise landscaping options, and will help with the diversity of species in our tree canopy.
Revised Open Space Standards and Amenities:
Previously the City of Meridian had one blanket minimum standard for qualified open space for residential single family development of a minimum 10% of qualified open space. City surveys and public outreach have consistently shown a need to increase many of our standards. Now we will provide the following minimums:
R-8, TN-R and TN-C: 15%
The R-2 developments provide larger yards, and we are seeing fewer developments with that designation so it seems to make sense to lower that standard. All other standards have increased by 2-5%, a modest increase that should result in increased open space when we have denser housing types.
Multifamily open space requirements have also been updated. We considered increasing the multifamily open space standard to 18-20% under a blanket standard, but found that changing the formula actually resulted in decreased open space because it didn't sufficiently account for the unit count in certain developments. An 18% blanket open space requirement without accounting for unit count and dimensions resulted in a net decrease below of 57 square feet from current standards.
The new multifamily open space standard is the sum of:
a minimum of 10% plus:
One hundred fifty (150) square feet for each unit containing five hundred (500) or less square feet of living area.
Two hundred fifty (250) square feet for each unit containing more than five hundred (500) square feet and up to one thousand two hundred (1,200) square feet of living area.
Three hundred fifty (350) square feet for each unit containing more than one thousand two hundred (1,200) square feet of living area.
This should result in adequate open space, while balancing the need for increased open space when we have smaller units and denser development.
While some of our surrounding cities such as Eagle have a higher overall standard for open space, note, they do not have a concept of "qualified" open space. In Meridian, for open space to count towards our minimums there are certain standards that need to be met for the space to be thoughtfully planned and usable.
After over a year of work by our Open Space Committee and planning staff, we have introduced a point scoring system to evaluate amenities. Note, the alternative compliance process is still available if developers have a creative approach that differs from the options listed.
The only changes that I found problematic and previously voted against were the updates to the RV parking standards. I was concerned that the changes would not solve code enforcement issues and would lead to further confusion. It is important to note, that the RV Parking Code changes do not override HOA's authority to make their own rules regarding RV parking.
Overall, I am proud of the work the Open Space Committee / Workgroup, Planners, Planning & Zoning, and City Council have put in to updating our UDC code to reflect our new comprehensive plan. I believe we have increased the bar in a way that is manageable for all of our stakeholders to continue to develop housing while at the same time seeking to balance the quality of life that residents expect in Meridian.