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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/STACY RYBURN Sloan Scroggin points to a map of Fayetteville with other planning commissioners during a retreat at the municipal airport Saturday.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Appropriate development should balance the interests of residents, builders and city officials and decisions should benefit the entire city, not just certain groups, planning commissioners agreed during a Saturday retreat.

Eight of nine planning commissioners and city staff convened at the municipal airport to discuss long-term planning goals and changes to the city's development code. Commissioner Ryan Noble did not attend.

The lingo

Infill development — Building on underused parts of an urban area so residents can access services without having to travel great distances.

Suburban sprawl — The opposite of infill development; housing and commercial spaces largely alone on the edge of a city or without surrounding development.

Traditional town form — Forming complete neighborhoods by filling in unused spaces or reusing existing buildings.

Missing middle-housing — Multi-unit housing, such as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, that integrate well into blocks of single-family homes.

Snout house — Homes with a protruding garage out front and a front door tucked farther away from the street.

Impact fees — Imposed on a development to cover the cost of providing services, such as fire, police, water and sewer.

Cost-share development — City officials and developers partner to share the cost and workload of infrastructure improvements, such as new sidewalks, roads or water and sewer lines.

Source: Staff report

The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the City Council regarding zoning, annexation and land uses. It also can suggest changes to city developmental code, which the council decides whether to approve. The commission does have final say on subdivision and development plans, as well as permit applications for conditional uses of properties.

The concept of infill development dominated the early half of the discussion. Commissioners broke off into three groups to role play as residents, developers and City Council members. Discussion pertained to three topics: creating an infill or targeted growth map, clearly defining the term "appropriate infill" and incentives for infill development. The groups all reconvened and brought the different perspectives together in a larger discussion.

Residents tend to have an aversion to infill development when it happens in their neighborhoods, but want the amenities that generally follow, Commissioner Sloan Scroggin said.

Planners should target growth based on what blends in with existing development, rather than simply pointing to a location on a map, commissioners agreed.

Developers want to be able to build where they want and the city's rules and regulations need to be clear, Chairman Ron Autry said.

Commissioner Zara Niederman, a developer, said it's the added, unexpected expenses that can dissuade builders. He used as examples not knowing the cost of required trees for drainage or having to add sidewalks that weren't part of an original plan.

"I think uncertainty is the challenging part," he said.

The commission agreed cost-share development benefits everyone involved. A tiered system for impact fees, rather than certain rates regardless of the type of development, would be fairer, commissioners said.

Infill doesn't have to mean building strictly in a city's downtown, Commissioner Matt Hoffman said. Pockets closer to the edge of town that have services within walking distance can create a positive living experience, he said.

Making appropriate infill the priority and discouraging suburban sprawl are the city's first two goals of its 2030 plan. However, neither appropriate infill nor suburban sprawl have definitions in the city code.

This year, city staff will work on updating the plan, which will become the 2040 plan, Planning Director Andrew Garner said. Infill development makes up a significant chunk of the larger city plan discussion, he said.

The second half of the commission retreat focused on housing, specifically subdivision regulations, traditional town form and addressing missing middle-housing.

Certain code changes could discourage certain types of housing development. For example, reducing the road width requirement in a neighborhood would allow longer driveways. Those driveways could then reach a side-loaded garage as opposed to one in the front. That sort of development would cut down on the number of garage doors lining the street, making for a more pleasing neighborhood experience, Hoffman said.

"This is about offering different incentives to get a development pattern going," he said.

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The commission decided to hold hour-long meetings after its regular agenda sessions to discuss updates to the city plan with staff, as well as some of the topics brought up during the retreat. The idea was to keep regular meetings from getting bogged down with discussion at the end of a long night, commissioners said.

The retreat ended with a chart showing that for the past two years city staff and planning commissioners have agreed on nearly 95 percent of rezonings, right of way vacations and administrative items. The agreement rate was nearly 94 percent between the Planning Commission and City Council.

NW News on 01/28/2018

Print Headline: Retreat focuses on infill, housing

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