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Hopes are that a new 'lean code' will spur additional development in area with a goal of creating a pedestrian-friendly area.

COURTESY TIGARD PLANNING DEPARTMENT - This map show the new zoning district designed specifically for mixed-use zoning in whats known as the Tigard Triangle. The city of Tigard is moving ahead with plans to implement a new zoning district designed specifically for mixed-use zoning in what's known as the Tigard Triangle.

On Dec. 12, the Tigard City Council, approved the new zoning plans for the 500-acre parcel of property bounded by Highway 99W to the north, Highway 217 to the west and south and Interstate 5 to the east.

The new zoning, adopted in August, is referred to as a so-called "lean code," making it easier for developers to receive approval for their projects. It specifically regulates development in the new Tigard Triangle mixed-use zone.

"It's lean because the approval process has been streamlined and development standards have been reduced or eliminated, e.g. no minimum parking requirement and no floor area ratio (FAR), which limited how big a building could be relative to the size of the lot," said Susan Shanks, a Tigard senior planner.  

In the past, stricter codes are likely one of the reasons for hindering development in the Triangle area, planning officials say.

In the mixed-use zone, creating pedestrian-friendly area top the list of attributes desired for the area. That includes bring buildings closer to the sidewalk, putting parking in the rear of structures, having wide sidewalks that can accommodate street trees and outdoor seating, said Shanks. In addition, the zoning rules require doors and windows on the street facing façades and weather protection installed at the entrances.

Shanks said while many of the city's codes require additional architectural detail (e.g. a specific type of window trim, cornices balconies and other requirements), that's not the case under in the Tigard Triangle mixed-use district.

"We opted not to go this route because we wanted to keep things lean and not burden development with these kinds of additional costs," said Shanks.

Since the area has numerous small and irregular lots, development in the area hasn't always been as easy in the past because the old code made it difficult for incremental development to occur, she said.

The new zoning allows for properties to evolve over time and build on what's already there, be it a parking lot or transforming a single-family house into a business, Shanks said.

The rezoned area now has 8,000 parking spaces (totaling 87 acres) and planners hope that some of the numerous parking lots are transformed into commercial, retail or residential development. The entire triangle currently has about 11,000 parking spaces totaling 128 acres.

One highlight of the lean code is that it will allow individual developers to determine how much parking they will need, something that is unique in planning circles.

That means a loosening of current parking code requirements with Kenny Asher, Tigard community development director, pointing out that a savvy developer only builds the parking they will need.

As an example of less restrictive parking codes, current Tigard parking requirements fill about 20 pages of codebook space but under the lean code, parking requirements are only two pages long.

Ultimately, Asher said the rezoned Triangle wouldn't be appropriate for all areas of the city but he does believe it is a working laboratory to try out some new things that could possibly be picked up and copied by other cities as well.

Asher said that the city hasn't run into much opposition of a process that has been three years in the making but admitted not everyone will love the lean code. He pointed out it won't necessarily contain the most glamorous building projects in the city but quickly noted that building in the Tigard Triangle is "not a beauty contest."

Already, a developer has approached the city with a proposal for a five-story mixed use project along 72nd Avenue. That complex would contain first-floor commercial ventures along with multi-family residential use reserved above the businesses.

Meanwhile, Mayor John Cook said he's pleased with the leaner code because it will allow for easier development.

"I think it will help," Cook said.

He said how well it works will be determined once developers come through and begin developing the area.

"It's trial and error," Cook said. "(We'll) see how it goes."

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