Proposed Changes to the UDC

Submit comments to [email protected] by Friday 11/6 at 8am

Here is a link to the staff report

Below is a letter from NPI explaining concerns about the proposed amendments

From Neighborhood Preservation, Inc.

October 1, 2020

An Open Letter to City Council Officials, Board of Appeals Members, and Office of Planning and Development Staff,

            We are writing to express concerns about the proposed amendments to the Unified Development Code (UDC) listed in the staff report for ZTA 20-1 and to request revisions in the proposed amendments. Our concerns are in reference to:

            1. Section 1.9 Consistency with Memphis 3.0,

            2. Section 8.4.5D and 9.22.10B to send deviations from the UDC to the Board of Adjustment rather than to the Land Use Control Board,

            3. Section 10.5.1 Amendment to change the meaning of the nonconforming lots regulations,

            4. Section 9.8.6B Amendment to the requirements for notice regarding the closure of alleys,

            5. Sections 2.6.4D and 6.5.1 deferring to TDEC regulations. 

            We believe it is very important to preserve the rights of citizens and neighborhoods affected by land use applications to participate effectively in the determination of consistency with the Memphis 3.0 general plan. In the recent case of the Connections Center Special Use Permit 20-01 proposed for Jackson Ave, Office of Planning and Development staff determined that the Center application was consistent with 3.0. However, a coalition of neighborhood groups and citizens did not agree the use was consistent and felt strongly that it would be harmful to the continued improvement in their neighborhoods. We request to add the following language to UDC section 1.9B to make it clear that citizens and neighborhoods who disagree may effectively challenge the interpretation of consistency as the item is considered by boards and bodies responsible for making land use decisions.

Boards and bodies responsible for determination of consistency shall also consider comments from affected citizens and neighborhoods.

            We are opposed to the changes to UDC Sections 8.4.5D, 8.4.6 and 9.22.10 that allow deviations to the regulations in the UDC to be sent to the Board of Adjustment (BOA)instead of the Land use Control Board (LUCB). We request the removal of these amendments to the UDC regulations. There are substantial differences in public notice and the length of time available for citizen participation in the BOA process as compared to the LUCB process which we believe significantly diminish the rights of citizens and neighborhoods to participate in the land use approval process.  A very important difference is that the LUCB is a longer, two-step process which allows an appeal to the Memphis City Council. The BOA process is a significantly shorter, one step process which allows no appeal except to go to court which is out of reach for most citizens and neighborhoods. 

            The OPD staff report proposes to make this change in process to reduce the situations in which a property owner must go to the LUCB (Special Exception) and the BOA (Variance) for relief from the regulations.  However, evidence in the annual reports to LUCB show that there are very few applications for Special Exceptions; 2020 – 1 (maybe 2), 2019 -1, 2018 – 0 and 2017 -1.  With so few Special Exception cases, there is no reason for this change which makes it hard for citizens to have a voice in the land use approval process.  No appeal to the City Council means that all developers will choose the BOA process if the process is written as a choice as proposed in this ZTA staff report.

            We are opposed to the proposed amendments to UDC Section 10.5.1, which change the meaning of the nonconforming lots regulations.  According to the OPD staff report, the reason for this change to regulation of nonconforming lots is that this has always been the intent of the regulations.  We believe the intent of the regulation is exactly as it is written to affect nonconforming lots created by deed or by recorded plan. 

            At first glance this change may appear to support infill development and density that will improve the city by making housing more affordable.  However, its actual effect has been to promote demolition of affordable existing homes which have been replaced by very expensive “tall skinny” homes on 25-foot lots. These homes have contributed to changing the Cooper Young neighborhood from a mixed income neighborhood to one that is too expensive for citizens with low and moderate income.  We ask that this proposed change to the nonconforming lots regulations be removed from the list of proposed changes to the UDC in ZTA 20-1.  This proposed change in the nonconforming lots regulations will legalize the practice of purchasing a 50-foot lot, demolishing the original home and building “tall skinny” homes on 25-foot-wide lots. 

            We are opposed to the changes to UDC Section 9.8.6B, amending the requirements for notice regarding the closure of alleys. The current requirements of posting a sign in addition to maintaining the requirement of mailed notice to allow extension of an alley closure permit by three years should be maintained.  Simply posting a sign three years after a permit was issued to allow an extension is not sufficient notice for the affected property owners, regardless if the same owners agreed to the previous closure permit. 

            We believe that the closure of landfills should be reviewed by local government. While TDEC approved reclamation plans may be sufficient, there may be cases in which local requirements may be more demanding.  There is no reason for local government to give up this authority.  regarding landfills. We oppose the changes proposed under Sections 2.6.4D and 6.5.1 and request that the language remain as is.

            We are joined in sending this letter with our partners in working for a better Memphis who also hope that our suggestions are included in the final adopted version of the amendments to the Unified Development Code. The full list of partners is included in the signature line of this letter. Our specific areas of concern, additions, and suggestions are listed on the next page.

Sincerely,

Quincy N. Jones, Director of Programs, Neighborhood Preservation, Inc.

DON NEWMAN