Without so much as a whimper from the business community, a two-year process to address the council’s concerns about the conversion of retail or restaurant into office space was finalized with a 6-0 vote to amend the town’s land use code, with Councilmember Mark Buchsieb absent.
With this vote, council tackled a top priority for the upcoming year, “to increase vibrancy of downtown core businesses.”
By placing limitations on the amount of office space allowed as frontage along main street, the ordinance, passed on second reading, is intended to bolster sales tax dollars by encouraging more retail and restaurant uses along Colorado Avenue.
“Let’s limit it, keep our vitality and keep moving forward,” Planning and Building Director Chris Hawkins told the council Tuesday.
Horizontal zoning, according to Hawkins’ memorandum to the council, “is simply a regulatory mechanism to control what uses occur on each floor of a multi-story building.”
The new amendments for Telluride’s land use code passed by the council reads as follows: “… to expand the town’s horizontal zoning regulations to regulate and/or prohibit offices, banks, professional services and similar uses on property fronting onto Colorado Avenue extending from Aspen to Alder streets to limit the total linear building frontage of the regulated uses to a set linear building frontage of the commercial core as it exists today.”
The practice has been adopted by numerous resort towns across the west.
Prior to passing the new regulations, Telluride already had some horizontal zoning in place, with residential uses restricted to within 35 feet of the front, 20-foot minimum setback.
Earlier this year, when the town’s planning and zoning commission first began to conduct work sessions on the issue, the panel was reluctant to pursue horizontal zoning. With criticism coming from members of the business community, P&Z sent the matter back to council, which then sent it back to the commission with a request to create a “Commercial Core Vitality Plan.”
Horizontal zoning, an odd, somewhat nondescript term, was rephrased as “downtown vitality.”
P&Z next evaluated existing uses for Commercial Core Vitality within the downtown core, finding offices (commercial service uses) constituted approximately 32 percent of main street’s total floor area between Aspen and Alder streets. Retail and restaurant uses added up to 58 percent of the commercial core’s floor area.
In May, the council directed P&Z to create language to expand horizontal zoning into the arena of restricting office space uses, but only to maintain the status quo.
“That’s one reason why we don’t see a packed house today,” Hawkins told the council on Tuesday.
The new regulations include an allowance to increase the amount of service commercial use frontage on undeveloped, vacant land, and for the development of demolished and reconstructed lots through a PUD process.
“Staff is also recommending that the amount of Service Commercial Use frontage only be allowed to increase if the P&Z makes a finding such increases will not distract from the overall vitality of the Commercial Core, and the overall PUD adds to the vitality of the Commercial Core,” Hawkins states in his memo.
By maintaining the status quo, Hawkins states, the new regulations will enhance the commercial core’s downtown vitality over the long term, but won’t change much over the short term.
“I honestly don’t know if we will see anything in a year,” Hawkins said. “But I think it’s a good idea to review this a year from now.”