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  Regular   4.       
Meeting Date: 01/11/2021  
Title:    Project ReCode - Zoning Code Amendment and Zoning Map Update - 2nd reading
Presented by: Nicole Cromwell
Department: Planning & Community Services Division: Planning

RECOMMENDATION
The City Zoning Commission conducted seven public hearings on the Zoning Code Amendments and Zoning Map Update. At the final public hearing on October 14, 2020, the Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the Zoning Code Amendment and the Zoning Map Update to the City Council. The City Council at its meeting on December 14, 2020, after conducting a public hearing, approved with amendments 1st Reading of the Ordinance for the Zoning Code Amendment and the Zoning Map Update on a 9-2 vote, and adopted the findings of the 10 criteria. The Council is scheduled to approve on 2nd Reading the final Ordinance for the Zoning Code Amendment and the final Zoning Map Update at this meeting.
BACKGROUND (Consistency with Adopted Plans and Policies, if applicable)
The City Zoning Commission conducted seven public hearings on the Zoning Code Amendments and Zoning Map Update. At the final public hearing on October 14, 2020, the Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the Zoning Code Amendment and the Zoning Map Update to the City Council.

The City Council began the 1st Reading of the Ordinance for the Zoning Code Amendment and the Zoning Map Update at its meeting on November 9 and continued the 1st Reading and kept the hearing open. A second session of 1st Reading and public hearing was held on November 23, 2020. Again, the Council continued the 1st Reading and kept the hearing open. The City Council completed its 1st Reading action and public hearing process at the December 14, 2020 meeting and is scheduled to complete its 2nd Reading of the final Ordinance for the Zoning Code Amendment and the final Zoning Map Update at this meeting.

Project Re:Code has been a more than three-year collaborative effort initiated by the Yellowstone County Board of Planning in June 2017. The mission of the initiative by the Board was to ensure the zoning regulations for the City and County were updated to help implement the Growth Policies and community goals. The current regulations were first adopted in the City in 1972, have not been thoroughly updated since adoption, and were no longer meeting the needs of the community.

The new code will replace the existing zoning code in its entirety (BMCC Chapter 27). The 2016 Billings Growth Policy and the Project Steering Committee set of Guiding Principles, were the foundation of all the work and drafting of the new code. The Steering Committee consisted of 18 members appointed by the City/County Planning Board to oversee and guide the community effort to re-draft the zoning for the city and county. The Steering Committee appointed four Working Groups to tackle the labor intensive work of reading, editing, and creating this new code. Those Working Groups were: Urban Issues, County Issues, and Landscaping and Signs. Each member of the Steering Committee and Working Groups put in literally hundreds of volunteer hours to make this code update possible. The City and County each contributed funds for the hiring of a consultant team to work with staff and the Working Groups. The consultant team provided expertise in writing zoning codes, legal issues in land use, urban design, landscape design, assessing neighborhood character and local design knowledge.

The draft code is a uniquely Billings zoning code. You will not read this code and think of Boise, ID, Rapid City, SD or Bozeman, MT. We did take best practices from peer cities and used them to fit our local needs and future vision for improving the quality of development and supporting attraction of new businesses and residents to our community. The consultant team and our volunteers crafted this code to fit this city and to help it achieve its stated growth goals in the City's 2016 Growth Policy:
"In the next 20 years, Billings will manage its growth by encouraging development within and adjacent to the existing City limits, but preference will be given to areas where City infrastructure exists or can be extended within a fiscally constrained budget and with consideration given to increased tax revenue from development. The City will prosper with strong neighborhoods with their own unique character that are clean, safe, and provide a choice of housing and transportation options."

City Council December 14 Amendments
Before voting to adopt the Zoning Code Amendments and Zoning Map Update on 1st Reading, the City Council approved four motions to amend the code. These amendments are specifically called out in Exhibit C attached to this memo and are briefly summarized here:
  • Article 27-800 - Planned Neighborhood Developments - Amendment approved to change the minimum required mix of Zoning Districts in PNDs from at least 20% for one of the two required districts to 10%
  • Article 27-305 - N2 District - Amendment so that duplex development requirements are the same across all eras of development in N2 districts
  • Mayor's 5 Amendments -Article 27-304 - N1 District; Article 27-800 and Table 27-800.1 - PND clarifications; Article 27-1103 - Proportionate Compliance - reference to Article 27-1802 on roofs; and Article 27-1203.D - Landscaping - clarification on application to non-residential districts
  • Article 27-1504.C - Nonconforming Uses of Land - Amendment to delay the trigger of abandonment of a nonconforming use from 6 months or more to 12 months or more
Casino Issues
Staff has prepared a casino regulation summary and city authority document attached to this memo (City Casino Background and Legal Memo) to help clarify why the City is adopting new and additional regulations for casinos in Project ReCode and the legal authority the City has under State Law to do so. No changes to the casino regulations were proposed by Council at the December 14 meeting and the regulations were adopted on 1st Reading.

Open Space Requirements
Near the end of the December 14 meeting, Council Member Neese brought up possible modifications to the open space requirements for new multifamily residential development (Article 27-307 and 27-308). There was no majority direction from the Council at the meeting to direct staff to make or propose any amendments to the open space requirements. Staff has, therefore, not proposed any changes but did want to clarify with the Council that there are multiple tools which can regulate and encourage the development and dedication of open space and parkland.

Zoning is not the only tool that can help address parkland. ReCode addresses parkland dedication only as part of utilizing PND’s requiring a dedication of at least 2%. ReCode does not require development of open space areas for property already zoned for multifamily. Staff does not recommend requiring existing developments, or existing zoned property which allows multi family developments, to have different parkland dedication requirements since these are infill projects or are already developed. There would be a plethora of challenges related to being able to dedicate or provide land for already developed or already zoned parcels.
 
Subdivision regulations are another tool that can help address parkland. For new subdivisions, already in the city or being annexed, current City Subdivision Regulations and the Montana Subdivision and Platting Act require residential subdivisions to dedicate parkland or provide cash in lieu. State law is clear that preference of dedication versus cash in lieu is the preference and choice of the developer. City subdivision regulations require 11% parkland dedication for developments that have more than 1 unit per half acre. This means multifamily developments already are required by subdivision law to provide or pay for 11% open space. The less dense the development is, the less dense the parkland dedication requirements are. See below for parkland dedication requirements for subdivision. Notice the scale and requirements is directly related to density.
 
1. 11% of the area of the net land proposed to be developed at a density of one dwelling unit per half acre or less;
2. 7.5% of the area of the net land proposed to be developed at a density of between one dwelling unit per half acre and one dwelling unit per one acre;
3. 5% of the area of the net land proposed to be developed at a density of between one dwelling unit per one acre and one dwelling unit per 3 acres;
4. 2.5% of the area of the net land proposed to be developed at a density of between one dwelling unit per 3 acres and one dwelling unit per 5 acres.
 
ReCode in combination with subdivision now guarantees a minimum of 2% open space will be provided and developed for new PND developments. The developer can choose to provide the remaining 9% required under subdivision regulations, when applicable, by any combination of cash and land dedication. This is different than how things currently work. A developer can currently choose to provide 0% parkland or open space so long as they provide the value of 11% of the net land area as a cash contribution. Though 2% may be modest, it is a positive incremental step in achieving land dedication and open space in new multifamily residential development that the City does not currently have in place.
 
ALTERNATIVES
Before making a decision on the proposed Zoning Code Amendments and the Zoning Map Update, the City Council at its 1st Reading considered the Zoning Commission proposed findings of the ten review criteria. The Council may approve ReCode on 2nd Reading and finalize its findings of the ten criteria as outlined below:

1. Whether the new zoning is designed in accordance with the growth policy; The proposed Zoning Amendments and Map Updates are consistent with the 2016 Billings Growth Policy Statement and Growth Guidelines:
Statement: "In the next 20 years, Billings will manage its growth by encouraging development within and adjacent to the existing City limits, but preference will be given to areas where City infrastructure exists or can be extended within a fiscally constrained budget and with consideration given to increased tax revenue from development. The City will prosper with strong neighborhoods with their own unique character that are clean, safe, and provide a choice of housing and transportation options."
Growth Guidelines:
Essential Investments (relating to public and private expenditures to public values)
  • Planning and construction of safe and affordable interconnected sidewalks and trails are important to the economy and livability of Billings.
  • Developed parks that provide recreation, special amenities (community gardens, dog parks, viewing areas), and active living opportunities are desirable for an attractive and healthy community
  • Natural landscapes are important because they define the uniqueness of Billings and help protect the environment
  • Landscaping of public rights-of-way and entryways makes Billings more visually appealing to residents and visitors
  • Infill development and development near existing City infrastructure may be the most cost effective
  • The history and heritage of Billings are cornerstones of our community Neighborhoods that are safe and attractive and provide essential services are much desired
  • Infrastructure and service investments that stabilize or improve property values, secure future utility costs, consider maintenance costs, and improve our environmental quality far into the future (i.e.. energy efficient) are desirable
Place Making (enhance, maintain, preserve and improve existing public places):
  • Enhancement and maintenance of public spaces and buildings through City stewardship is integral to a vibrant community
  • Public and private partnerships are valuable for creating enhanced entryways into Billings
  • Locally grown foods help sustain agriculture, provide healthy options, and support local businesses
  • Encouraging the installation of art in public spaces enhances the places and showcases the talents and diversity of the community
Community Fabric (attractive, aesthetically pleasing, uniquely Billings)
  • Developed landscape areas in commercial areas encourage more pedestrian activity and vibrant commercial activity
  • Attractive street scapes provide a pleasant and calming travel experience in urban and suburban neighborhoods
  • Outdoor public spaces provide casual and relaxing gathering areas for people Cost-effective landscaping of public rights-of-way and entryways makes Billings more visually appealing to residents and visitors
Strong Neighborhoods (livable, safe, sociable and resilient neighborhoods)
  • Zoning regulations that allow a mixture of housing types provide housing options for all age groups and income levels
  • Walkable neighborhoods that permit convenient destinations such as neighborhood services, open space, parks, schools and public gathering spaces foster health, good will and social interaction
  • Safe and livable neighborhoods can be achieved through subdivision design walkable access to public spaces
  • Implementation of the Infill Policy is important to encourage development of underutilized properties
Home Base (healthy, safe and diverse housing options)
  • A mix of housing types that meet the needs of a diverse population is important The Housing Needs Assessment is an important tool to ensure Billings recognizes and meets the demands of future development
  • Common to all types of housing choices is the desire to live in surroundings that are affordable, healthy and safe
  • Homes that are safe and sound support a healthy community
  • Accessory dwellings units provide an important type of affordable housing options if compatible
Mobility and Access (transportation choices in places where goods and services are accessible to all)
  • Connecting people to places with transportation choices is vital to the well-being of Billings’ residents, businesses and visitors
  • Safe and accessible transportation systems benefit everyone’s quality of life Affordable public transit is much desired
  • Development oriented to transit routes will provide more transportation choices and is preferred
Prosperity (promoting equal opportunity and economic advancement)
  • Predictable, reasonable City taxes and assessments are important to Billings’ taxpayers
  • A diversity of available jobs can ensure a strong Billings’ economy Successful businesses that provide local jobs benefit the community Community investments that attract and retain a strong, skilled and diverse workforce also attracts businesses
  • Retaining and supporting existing businesses helps sustain a healthy economy
As the Steering Committee and Working Groups considered each code section for the City of Billings, these Growth Guidelines and the Guiding Principles set forth by the Steering Committee in January 2018 were front and center to the discussions and decision making. The proposed Zoning Code and the Zoning Map update meet and exceed each one of the guidelines listed above. The proposed code conserves the un-renewable resource of land so the city can better meet the needs of all its residents, businesses, newcomers, and visitors now and into the future.
  1. Whether the new zoning is designed to secure from fire and other dangers;
The new zoning requires minimum setbacks, open and landscaped areas and building separations in most of the new zone districts. The new zoning, as do all zoning districts, provides adequate building separations and density limits to provide security from fire and other dangers. The proposed code is more predictable for public safety services by eliminating the unlimited height in the multi-family zone districts, and by making site design for safe access part of the development requirements for new construction.
  1. Whether the new zoning will promote public health, public safety and general welfare;
Public health, public safety and the general welfare will be promoted by the proposed zoning code update. The proposed neighborhood zone districts remove the unnecessary 1972 suburban zoning designation from Billings' first neighborhoods, restoring property equity throughout these districts and removing the past necessity for variances just to maintain existing quality neighborhood development. The new neighborhood zone districts reflect the development character of existing zones rather than imposing a pattern that does not exist and never existed in these areas of Billings. The new code allows developers and builders to choose this historical development pattern for new neighborhoods as well. The Planned Neighborhood Development zoning tool will allow the city to plan new neighborhoods in partnership with owners so these newly annexed areas fit as the city continues to grow. The PND rules allows the city to be a full participant at the table rather than accepting a zone decision and neighborhood plan developed started in the county without city input.
 
          4. Whether the new zoning will facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public requirements;
 
Transportation: The proposed zoning code should help the city provide transportation across the entire spectrum of options from public transit, private vehicles, walking and biking. Sprawling development patterns of homogenous land uses separated by miles from different land uses is an unsustainable development pattern that does not align with the future community vision in the Growth Policy. It unnecessarily increases vehicle trips, drives up demand for parking spaces, wider and more abundant high speed arterial streets, contributes to air pollution and unhealthy life styles. The proposed code will enable new neighborhoods to be close to everyday services, will require amenities that support walking (street trees), and allow compact site designs that are currently prohibited by our out-of-date zoning.
 
Water & Sewer: The proposed code will make extension and renewal of existing city water and sewer services more sustainable by allowing traditional development patterns to persist and to be replicated in new neighborhoods.
 
Schools and Parks: Schools and parks should be sustainable with the new zoning code. The creation of new Public zone districts specific for these public facilities will help maintain these large pieces of the community fabric in neighborhoods. Demand for additional classroom space further and further from the urban core may persist for some time, but the sustainability and renewal of close in neighborhoods should provide more opportunity for in-fill that will maintain student populations within existing schools. Parks will be part of every new Planned Neighborhood Development and will be developed. The requirement can count towards the state requirement for dedication of parkland for new residential subdivisions (or payment of cash-in-lieu), but every new neighborhood will have at least a small gathering space to improve the sociability and resiliency of these new areas.
  1. Whether the new zoning will provide adequate light and air;
The proposed zoning, as does the current zoning, provides for sufficient setbacks to allow for adequate separation between structures and adequate light and air.
  1. Whether the new zoning will effect motorized and non-motorized transportation;
The new zoning has updated off-street parking requirements that better reflect the parking demand for land uses. This will allow businesses to supply the right amount of parking and for neighborhoods to be assured off street parking is adequate for new developments. The new code supports the efforts of many of our neighborhoods by allowing existing neighborhood service business to stay in place. Non-motorized travel should also be improved with the new standards for zone districts that require street front landscaping for all new development, and the provision for at least one bike parking rack at new businesses.
  1. Whether the new zoning will promote compatible urban growth;
The new zoning does promote compatibility with urban growth. The City and County will have separate zoning codes but the new code requires the use of a Planned Neighborhood Development (PND) process to ensure better compatibility between the city and the county.
  1. Whether the new zoning considers the character of the district and the peculiar suitability of the property for particular uses;
This criteria is not necessarily applicable other than the Zoning Map Update will place each zoned parcel into a new zone district that correlates to the existing zoning of the property and the existing or intended uses of the property. For example, a manufactured home park in a single family zone district would update to Residential Manufactured Home.
  1. Whether the new zoning will conserve the value of buildings;
In general, the new zoning code should conserve the value of buildings throughout the City. The Zoning Map update seeks to ensure that current development and zoning is preserved and not placed in a nonconforming status whenever possible.
  1. Whether the new zoning will encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the City of Billings.
The zoning map update will encourage the most appropriate use of land in the City of Billings.
FISCAL EFFECTS
The proposed amendment and zoning map update should not have a significant effect on the Planning Division budget. The Division has developed some application fees that will apply to some of the new types of administrative processes outlined in the code to help cover costs. These fees have already been approved by the City Council as part of the FY21 Planning Division budget.

Attachments
Ordinance Project ReCode January 2021
Exhibit A Complete Code December Adoption Draft
Exhibit B1 Final Map Updates
Exhibit B2 Draft Zoning Maps (Before Updates)
Zoning Map Legend
Exhibit C Amendments and Adjustments to Exhibit A
City Casino Background and Legal Memo


    

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