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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/STACY RYBURN Zara Niederman (right), Fayetteville planning commissioner, looks over a board of discussion topics with fellow commissioners Matt Johnson (left) and Quintin Canada (middle) during a Planning Commission retreat Saturday. Commissioners went over broad goals and specific city code changes.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Some growth issues facing the city can be addressed with simple code fixes, while others will require a closer look and a long-range strategy, Planning Commissioners agreed Saturday.

The commission addressed a number of topics during its retreat at the municipal airport. The goal was to set a course for the next year.

About a year ago, the commission formed a subcommittee to tackle long-range planning issues. A result was an ordinance the City Council passed last month that allows a form-based development option in certain commercial zoning districts. Form-based code refers to regulation that takes more into account the physical form of buildings, rather than the uses for those buildings.

Chairman Matt Hoffman said he would like to see the commission present about a handful of proposals to the council. Last year's retreat focused more on philosophical ideas, rather than specific code changes, he said.

"I think if we were just in front of them more often, that would help," Hoffman said.

For example, Hoffman said he had some ideas for changes to the Neighborhood Conservation zoning district on the city's books, which is a low-density residential district. The commission's subcommittee will further discuss those potential changes.

Neighborhood Conservation is a single-family district that can allow duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, among other limited uses, with a permit from the commission. The zoning's stated purpose is to promote and protect neighborhood character.

Commissioners also discussed the possibility of recommending the city form a long-range planning staff, in addition to its regular planners. The staff could then make recommendations to the City Council.

"I'd imagine a lot of people think we have a long-range planning department," Commissioner Porter Winston said.

Right now, planning staff will take on some larger-scale projects, such as the ongoing update to the city's overall master plan, on top of daily planning duties.

The commission spent most of the second half of the retreat going over criteria to rate the development potential of any particular area of the city. Planning staff has been working on the system as a way to help guide decisions on rezonings and other land-use designations.

Commissioners agreed the city has made it a point to discourage sprawl and encourage appropriate infill development, but neither of the two terms has been clearly defined.

The criteria considers how many intersections in a square mile an area has, its proximity to transit stops, its designation on the city's future land use plan and other factors. A higher score indicates an area is more ripe for development.

"In my mind, these high numbers are going to be indicators of a node, and that's where I want denser residential," Commissioner Leslie Belden said. "That's the way I'm translating it in my mind. We don't need to be filling in where they don't have the amenities."

Next meeting

The Planning Commission’s Long-Range Planning Committee will meet after the regular agenda-setting session this week.

When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Room 111, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

NW News on 05/19/2019

Print Headline: Planning commission outlines priorities, strategies

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