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Examining the city's role in development projects

Updated: 05/06/2020

Several projects on the city’s May 7 Planning Commission agenda have raised questions about how much control a city has dictating development and land use. It’s less than you may think.

While the city is responsible for setting permitted land uses and ensuring a proposed development fits the overall vision of an area as set forth in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the city cannot pick and choose what is constructed on a particular lot. If the development fits within a zoning district’s permitted uses, the city cannot prohibit it.

One way the city can better dictate the look and feel of a development is through a planned unit development (PUD) process. This does not dictate use of the property but allows the city to set more conditions of construction and design.

The proposed Prairie Pointe development on Fourth Avenue was brought forward to the city by its developers, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, to provide more supportive housing in the community. Beacon is proposing a 46-unit apartment building for residents who earn 30 percent or less of the area median income. (The city does not legislate rent levels through zoning.)

The site is currently zoned B-1, which allows for multi-family housing. The PUD process allows the city to place additional design conditions on a development. Under standard permitting, a developer can submit plans via building permit without any public review before construction.

Similarly, Summerland Place, a 117-acre mixed-use development off 17th Avenue, is being proposed by the property owner and development company. That is also proposed as a PUD and includes additional trails and amenities for residents. The eventual apartment design and house designs will have to meet a higher design standard.

In both cases, the city did not pursue the development or seek out these projects. The Planning Commission and City Council’s roles now are to ensure the proposed development fits the character of the neighborhood and meets city code standards.

Overall, both proposed planned unit developments support the city’s comprehensive plan of providing a mix of housing types and price levels. You can learn more about these specific projects at under the May 7 Planning Commission agenda.