Rize revisited: why a 150 foot tower was possible even without a rezoning

During the lengthy rehashing of the Rize rezoning in parts of the blogosphere, I have been accused of deliberately misleading the public, with the connivance of city staff, about the probability that a building at that site could be 150 feet tall even without rezoning under a development permit.

(That charge has since been reduced to one of unwittingly misleading or making it up as I go along.)

Clearly this is a key point for community members who believe the existing rules — those in place before the community plan clearly marked the site for more height and density — would hold the total height to 60 feet.

I have again reviewed this issue with city staff experts, who gave their reasoning both verbally and in writing during the hearing. I stand by everything I said.

Here’s the reply I have sent to one correspondent:

To be as brief as possible, it is reasonable to posit that a 150-foot building could be approved at the Rize site under existing regulations and policies, considering the following facts:

•    The C-3A District Schedule states that the “DP Board may permit an increase in the maximum height of a building” provided it takes into account a number of considerations including “all applicable policies and guidelines”.  This provision of the regulations does not set a specified height to which the DP Board is limited in its discretion relating to height.
•    The Central Broadway C-3A Urban Design Guidelines (originally adopted in March 1976 and last amended in 2004) suggest that buildings “should be built to a height … up to six storeys (70 feet)”.
•    The District Schedule is a bylaw stating zoning regulations that must be adhered to.  The Guidelines are not regulations but rather they offer guidance for decisions. This is why the Guidelines use the word “should” not “must”.
•    The District Schedule and the Guidelines were precisely what informed the DP Board decision in August 2005 for the Stella project at 12th and Kingsway.  Upon consideration, the DP Board approved the Stella at 135.6 feet and the DP Board report at that time duly noted that “the Development Permit Board may permit an increase to the height of the building … to an unspecified maximum”.
•    If a development proposal under existing C-3A zoning for the Rize site was to go before the DP Board today, the recently adopted Mount Pleasant Community Plan would also now be considered as current Council policy, in addition to the District Schedule and the Design Guidelines that have existed for some time.

The Mount Pleasant Plan states that with respect to three large sites (of which the Rize site is one), development proposals will “pursue additional height and density in select locations” and this would provide the DP Board with even stronger grounds upon which to base a decision about greater building height.My decision to support the Rize project was based on a close reading of the community plan.

I believe the proposal before council was consistent with that plan and the height reflected a decision to use the Rize site as a focal point for more density and height.

This was logical given the community interest in achieving CACs for cultural amenities and affordable housing. The design had already been reduced in scope to respond to community concerns. Some of the aspects you still find objectionable — the higher streetwall for example — are a direct result of those trade-offs.

While the Rize site may not be the largest in total area, it is the most significant and important in terms of achieving community goals in the near term. I stand by my statements on this point as well.

Thank you for revising your blog postings to remove suggestions of bad faith or deliberate misinformation on the part of council or staff. You are quite entitled to disagree with council’s decision but I think it is very unfair to make the statements you did about city staff.