Ordinance No.

27-10 Radical Changes in Development
Ordinance No. 27-10 proposes a number of a number of radical changes in West Lafayette development rules for central business districts and multiple unit residences. The rules in the ordinance changes represent a dramatic departure from both the current ordinance requirements and the typical guidelines applied to planned developments in the past. Many of these changes appear to be somewhat technical, but have critical real world consequences.

History of Multi-Unit Student Housing
As students began making the move out of traditional university based housing (dorms, organized group housing units, married student courts) in large numbers, the conversion of housing in older neighborhoods to rentals created various concerns and problems. The existence of multi-unit zones in the south end of the city and in various “spot zones” in other locations created issues between existing single-family neighborhoods and the newer rental housing. Problems included: (1) 3 1/2 story structures (with 35 foot overall height) towering over existing housing, (2) insufficient parking, and (3) excessive density. The solution to the problems was the R3W zone and a new formula for parking requirements. The R3W zone included an important restriction on height. That restriction was that the uppermost floor could not be at a greater elevation that 14 feet. The previous restriction was a 35 foot overall height. The change limited the structure design to 2 1/2 stories with a conventional roofline. The 35 foot overall limit had allowed 3 1/2 story buildings with low slope rooflines. These buildings towered over neighboring single-family dwellings. They were simply “out of scale” for the neighborhoods. The parking requirements were changed from 2 per unit to a schedule that depended on the size of the unit: 825 sq. ft. and over—3; 650 - 824 sq. ft.— 2.25; 470 - 649 sq. ft.—1.6; under 470 sq. ft.—1.1; efficiency—1. The combination of these two important development standards restricted the overall density. At this time, an R4W zone

was established to allow higher density (although with the revised increased parking).

History of CBW Development
West Lafayette adopted the CBW zone to enable more “urban” redevelopment that fit the specific circumstances of the university community. These rules related to patterns of use in the university community, which included a mix of pedestrian and vehicle based users. The mix typically varied based on how far the location was from the actual campus. In addition, CBW properties typically were mixed use, with commercial on the first floor and multi-unit residential above. Another part of the history was the fact that most off-campus students bring a car to campus (needing a parking space). In addition to developments under the CBW rules, numerous mixed use developments in the Village and Levee areas occurred under specific planned developments. However, planned developments shared several characteristics and guidelines. These included: 1. A restriction on the number of occupants in residential dwelling units; 2. A requirement of one parking space per each residential occupant; 3. Requirements for commercial parking, based on the type of use and distance from campus (based on an estimate of pedestrian/vehicle users); 4. Specific landscape and amenity requirements; and 5. A list of permissible uses (that was consistent with the location and prescribed parking). In addition, planned developments included the requirement of a specific architectural design, including building materials. This has resulted in project with good architectural design and quality materials and finishes. Examples include the following.

State Street Towers

Chauncey Square

State Street Commons

Wabash Landing

River Market

Parking Wars
The proposed change would result in two dramatic parking changes: (1) residential parking would be decreased from one per occupant (the planned development guideline) to one per bedroom, and (2) commercial parking requirements would be dramatically reduced or eliminated. These changes will be in direct conflict with the reality that residents and many commercial customers have cars. If they can’t park where they live and shop, they will “poach” parking wherever they can. Throughout all of West Lafayette near the campus, apartments sport signs restricting parking to “tenants only.” If higher density apartment development is allowed with reduced parking requirements, the battle for parking spaces will intensify. If only one person occupies each bedroom, the result would be similar to now. However, many landlords will likely yield to the temptation to increase their profits by designing buildings to reduce the parking requirements (and acreage needed per student paying rent). The math is simple. A two bedroom apartment with two occupants would require two parking spaces (as a Village area PD). Under the new proposal, a landlord could design one bedroom apartments for occupancy by two tenants with only one parking space. This would reduce the parking requirements for a building with 60 occupants from 60 spaces to 30 spaces. Of

course, most of the other 30 tenants will still have cars. Where will they be parked? Perhaps in adjoining neighborhoods on illegal gravel lots and in the yards. Perhaps on the streets of distant neighborhoods without timed parking restrictions. History teaches that over 90% of off-campus occupants will have cars and they

have to go somewhere. If developers are permitted to design new projects without space for these cars, they will go somewhere and that somewhere will be a prob-

lem for other property owners and neighbors, but enriching the developer who pushes the problem off onto others under this proposal. The commercial parking changes for the Village would reduce parking for all commercial uses to zero. While many uses do attract significant pedestrian users, the reality, clear to anyone who observes the Village today (and over the past decades), is that many users, including students who live not only all over West Lafayette, but in Lafayette and out US 52 West, can only access the Village businesses by car. The result today has been rabid signs warning against parking in the wrong lot and dueling tow trucks to enforce the “turf” of each developer. Both the signs and tow trucks are common throughout virtually all commercial developments in the Village, Levee and elsewhere in the campus-adjacent area. The restrictions are enforced day and night by fleets of tow trucks. Addi-

tional development coupled with reduced parking will likely make West Lafayette the setting of a new cable television reality show: Tow Wars. The parking changes in the ordinance would also reduce parking requirements in the Levee area. Bar/ restaurants there are now subject to the one space per 100 square feet of business premise requirement. The ordinance would change that to one space per 250 square feet of business premise. Bruno’s and Nine Irish Brothers are excellent examples of the foolishness of this proposal. Both Bruno’s and Nine Irish Brothers have added additional parking beyond what was originally required, in order to meet actual customer demand. In addition, they both violate the zoning/ greenspace ordinances by parking on the grass/landscaping. They both sport signs with dire warnings against non-customers using their parking lots. Another longstanding parking conflict in the Levee has been between the Levee Plaza owner and the theater, over parking. Both Levee Plaza and the theater have the required parking. How much worse would the conflict be when parking requirements are reduced for both commercial uses and future multi-unit residential in the area? The proposed change defies common sense.

Quality Development Versus Cheap Development
This proposal would cede all control over the quality of mixed use development in the Village (and Levee, too, for that matter). Currently, developers can request planned development status in order to increase the height of a building and to reduce parking if the developer can demonstrate a sufficient mix of pedestrian users. In exchange, the community can demand quality design and architecture, often improved tree plantings, and be assured of the total residential density and mix of permitted business uses. The city council (representing all of the city’s voters) is the body responsible for approving such planned development rezonings. It is an open secret that the owners of Chauncey Hill (the 70’s-style strip center) plan to replace it with a 10 story high rise. If this project was one that the community would be proud of, they would have already proposed it as a planned development. Or at least, they would bring it forward as a poster child for this zoning change. No, the details are under wraps. Draw your own conclusion about whether this redevelopment would make the community proud. Do we want to buy this “pig in a poke?”

The Towering Infernal
The proposal would place towering 3 1/2 story apartment buildings within and adjacent to older neighborhoods. This will completely undo all the planning work that culminated in the R3W zoning that provided for an intermediate lower density multi-unit zone (with the R4W zone for higher density development). Will the residents of the Schilling Addition welcome this next door (in place of the current two story garden apartments)?

The change from the 14 foot top floor height to 35 foot overall height will enrich some developers, but impoverish our older neighborhoods insofar as quality of life. We will also see more yard parking as adjoining properties bear the burden of accommodating cars that new rules do

not require new developments to provide. What about 65 foot tall buildings near Stadium and Northwestern towering over the older neighborhood on Dodge and Evergreen Streets? Reference the zoning map at the end to see where the conflicts will occur.

An Inapt Comparison
The rationale advanced for the CBW zoning change is that restrictions should be similar to downtown Lafayette. There are two significant flaws in this comparison. Downtown Lafayette has two large public parking garages—the county garage between 2nd and 3rd and the city garage between 4th and 5th. In addition, there are private parking garages with the Chase Building and Renaissance Place. Perhaps the bigger problem with the comparison is the difference in uses. In addition to some restaurants and bars, much of downtown Lafayette consists of office uses, as well as various retail, including burgeoning arts and crafts shops. These uses are low intensity in terms of the number of employees and customers on the premises at one time. The commercial uses in the West Lafayette Village are a mix that is much heavier on fast food and bars. These uses are much more intense in terms of the number of employees and customers per square foot. Think fast food versus and art gallery. Harry’s versus an antique shop. The parking needs (even with a significant pedestrian customer base) are simply much higher for these more intense uses. The ongoing turf wars over parking spaces and the ordeal by towing prove that vehicular customers and parking are an important part of the mix in the West Lafayette Village and Levee. For the proposed change to pretend otherwise is to ignore both history and what we can see with our own eyes. Will the taxpayers be called on to provide the parking garages later at a cost of millions of dollars? That is a policy question that should be considered honestly and up front, not by passing a zoning change to externalize the parking costs of new developments and force them to be addressed afterward.

A Worthy Goal, but a Dubious Roadmap
The goal of increasing density in the Village and Levee is a worthy one. It is a more efficient use of the land. By reducing commuting to campus, it can reduce vehicular/pedestrian conflicts and accidents. However, this zoning change to encourage increased density ignores the reality that most students bring cars and many customers come by car. The result will be developers getting rich and nearby neighborhoods and taxpayers paying the bill for the problems it will create. The existing planned development process and its guidelines provided a responsible route to higher density development under the control of our council representatives without externalizing the problems and costs onto others.

West Lafayette Zoning Map

Submitted by Area Plan Commission


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