Officials hope slimming down code requirements while promoting walkability will lead to development.

COURTESY OF THE CITY OF TIGARD - A draft zoning map for the Tigard Triangle shows in red what would be zoned as general commercial and in blue what would be under the proposed Triangle mixed-use zone.Tigard city officials have long wanted to see more development in the so-called Tigard Triangle, a piece of east Tigard nearly the size of downtown Portland that is bounded by Highway 99W to the north, Highway 217 to the west and south, and Interstate 5 to the east.

On Tuesday, Aug. 8, the Tigard City Council adopted a special development code for the Triangle that council members and city planners hope will spur that development.

It's called a "lean code," and its name sums up the philosophy behind it.

"It's a lean version of a form-based code," said Susan Shanks, who is the planner behind the project. "Ultimately, it is about 'leaning up' the process."

Officials hope that by stripping out a combination of land use approval processes and design requirements, the city will make the Triangle an attractive place for developers to move in.

The code is designed to guide development in a new zoning district that will be specific to the Tigard Triangle. This zone, which has yet to be formally adopted by the City Council, is mixed-use in a very broad sense: Under the lean code, it would allow for multiple types of residential, commercial, industrial and civic development. That means in theory, a health clinic, an apartment building, a technology lab and a brewpub could all stand on the same block within the district.

By relaxing design standards, the code places few limits on building styles.

"You would have to have windows and a door and weather protection over the door — I mean, that's the extent of the design standards," Shanks told the council Tuesday. "So the lean code is lean. It doesn't have a lot of fussy, like, 'You must have window trim that's three inches wide,' as a lot of … design areas have."

However, in one aspect, the lean code is very strict.

"We're really going minimal, but we're sticking to the things that really support walkability," Shanks told The Times.

Big parking lots in front of stores are out. So is chain-link fencing along the property line. The width and number of driveways for properties has been restricted as well.

One of the tradeoffs is that the city is not requiring a minimum amount of parking per development under the Tigard Triangle lean code. Shanks said the idea is to leave it up to individual developers to determine how much parking they need. If they need to build on-site parking, the code requires that they be located behind a building or at least 35 feet from the property line and screened from view from the street.

"We're wanting to flip that suburban model to make it a much more desirable place for people to be, not just people to drive to," Shanks said.

Most of the testimony at Tuesday's public hearing — largely from developers and property-owners in the Triangle — was neutral or positive, with some suggesting tweaks or seeking clarification to accommodate certain properties.

"We've been waiting for a long time for the planning code to come into place," said Rachael Duke, executive director of Community Partners for Affordable Housing, which has plans to build a housing development in the Tigard Triangle, adding, "In particular, we support this new code because we find that the new regulations allow us more flexibility to design excellent and streamlined housing communities that will lend themselves to affordability. We also agree with the overall vision of the Tigard Triangle and the lean code: a healthy, walkable community where people live and work."

Jim Corliss, president of the Landmark Ford Lincoln car dealership in the Triangle, was less favorable. He said he sees the lean code as restrictive to his business if it ends up in the new Triangle mixed-use zone.

"We've gone from being a very small business — which is what you're trying to encourage there — but even small businesses get large, and we've grown to be one of the largest ones in the United States," Corliss said. "And we still need to grow. We're not done growing. … I told planning commission if I had another franchise, which at some point I hope to do, I'd have to build a sizable building to be able to do it, and according to this lean code, I can't do it."

The council agreed to make one change from what was recommended by the Tigard Planning Commission, amending the code to allow for buildings up to six stories tall to be constructed along the east side of 72nd Avenue.

"I think that if somebody wants to build a five(-story building), they should be able to build a five there," said Mayor John L. Cook. "We know that now, so let's put it in the code now."

The lean code was adopted on a 5-0 vote. A separate action will be required at a future meeting to formally create the Triangle mixed-use zoning district to which the code will apply, at which point the code is expected to become effective.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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