Building Ferndale’s Future: Council to Consider Zoning Changes

Building Ferndale’s Future: Council to Consider Zoning Changes

(Crystal A. Proxmire Feb. 21, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – What will development in Ferndale look like moving forward?

According to draft zoning changes approved on first reading by the Planning Commission Wednesday, Ferndale will be more walkable, more transit-friendly, and with taller buildings to accommodate more mixed uses.

The proposed changes affect design elements and streamline development processes by “setting expectations up front” instead of hashing them out at the Planning Commission, said City Planner Justin Lyons.  “[We’re] putting all design based ordinances in one place to make it easier when architects bring plans to the city.”

City Council will host a public hearing on the changes, most likely at their March 26 meeting.  If approved it will require buildings in certain areas of the Central Business District to be a min. of 25 feet with the freedom to build up to 60 or 70 feet depending on the location.  The proposed allowable building height in the Central Business remains largely unchanged since the 2010 ordinance revision, other than the areas near the W. Nine Mile and Woodward Avenue intersection. On Woodward Avenue between Breckenridge and Saratoga there is the ability to go up to 80 feet if the space includes affordable housing and additional features such LEED (environmentally friendly) certification.

The ordinance package also includes design requirements, such as “articulation,” which is how the facade is composed. “We’re encouraging architecture that has hints of old and new,” Lyons said.

The ground floor facade of retail and office businesses would need to be 80% windows. The buildings would also need to abut the sidewalk in the front. Ground level parking adjacent to street frontages would be prohibited. There are also provisions to require street trees and bicycle parking.

The ordinances also establish an “urban flex” zone to create a transition between the central business district and the residential neighborhoods.  In this area buildings are limited to 55 feet, and businesses have the option of using a “stoop” style entrance that has a larger setback from the street.

“It’s exciting to have so many disparate things put into one place for businesses,” said Planning Commission Chair Kate Baker.

Councilperson Dan Martin serves as the Council liaison on the Planning Commission.  While the vote was unanimous, Martin added that he was looking forward to the public discussion that would come to City Council and that he would make his vote there based on feedback from the public.

If the ordinances pass at the March  26 meeting, the City will release a user guide to the ordinances to make it easier for potential developers.

“The draft ordinance amendments are in response to feedback and recommendations during the City’s Master Plan process that require more stipulations for renovations and developments in the Downtown,” Lyons said in an interview after the meeting.  “The recommended architectural standards build upon Ferndale’s history of a variety of architectural styles in the Downtown and ensure new projects have strong design principles the residents, businesses, and City have asked for in more recent projects. The draft also recognizes the need to manage transitions to adjacent residential areas. The draft ordinance should ensure new projects continue the walkable, pedestrian-scaled nature of Downtown Ferndale while promoting sustainability and greater choices in housing and mobility.”

For more details click here to check out the Planning Commission agenda.

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