[caption id="attachment_232053" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] City officials are hoping to revamp the zoning code to draw more developers to Downtown Dover, namely through the Loockerman Street corridor.| DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
DOVER — While city officials have made marquee announcements on projects for downtown Dover, they have also started looking at changing the zoning code to open up possibilities in the district.The district stretches as far west as Cherry Street and as far east as Federal Street, and is primarily zoned central commercial (C-2). With the master plan envisioning a vibrant future with thousands of residents in a walkable community, Dover City Planner Mary Ellen Gray said that it’s time to make it clear what’s permitted by-right in the district.City officials and Downtown Dover Partnership leaders held a series of meetings this week on proposed zoning changes, one open to the public, one open to engineers and one open to interested developers.“We want to take out the conditional for some of these and add some exciting uses,” she said during the Oct. 12 meeting, where only Mosaic Development Partners and Colonial Parkingrepresentatives attended. “The idea is that you want the first floor to be active. You don’t want it to be a residence.”Right now, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, art galleries, service establishments, business professional and residential are already permitted in C-2. But Dover planning officials have proposed allowing commercial kitchens, microbreweries, craft distilleries, meaderies and pop-up venues. Parking lots and parking structures would also be permitted, as well as public gathering spaces – those three options are currently allowed as a conditional use, which means it would need to be approved by the city Planning Commission.The proposed changes would also allow manufacturing and processing products to be sold onsite and online. It would also drop specific requirements to cap how many employees and how much power would be used.Buildings would be permitted to be 10 stories high, under the suggestions. Gray also outlined that if a building was above three stories, upper floors would need to be set back 20 feet.“That would also avoid that canyon field, and give a more walkable feel,” Gray said.Right now, the city code allows for six-story buildings downtown. Another consideration is to require any residential complexes six stories or higher to have 10% of its space set aside for affordable units on every floor.Another major change proposed would be eliminating minimum parking requirements in a targeted downtown redevelopment target area. Right now, existing buildings in the C-2 zone have no parking minimums, but Gray also noted that the C-2 district changes would apply to the city.“It’s baby steps for Dover, because I think if you propose eliminating parking requirements for C-2, the conversation might come to a halt. So let’s take a look at what this would do for downtown and have the conversation,” she said. “This would also change the paradigm of having the developer say what their parking needs are as opposed to the regulator saying how many parking spaces are required.”A key component to the Capital City 2030: Transforming Downtown Dover plan is making a more walkable community, anchored by residents that are willing to explore their local community. City officials, merchants and the Downtown Dover Partnership directors have long heard complaints of not enough parking in the area, with Loockerman Street lined with cars.The master plan, however, includes concepts for 792 spaces, including street parking and parking garages.Right now, Dover’s code requires two apartment spaces per dwelling unit at minimum. Colonial Parking Vice President of Operations Chris Hankins said that right now, that may bring a burden more on the city and the developers.“[Two spots] sticks in my head, because I would assume the need is one. The code leads you down a path with lots of parking spaces you probably don’t need,” Hankins said. “That cost ultimately gets passed through the tenants. I think eliminating the requirement is going to create a more walkable district, which is what Dover wants.”Mosaic Vice President for Development and Special Projects John Childress agreed with loosening restrictions on parking, as the master plan his firm drafted for the city called for a parking garage at one of two locations: 120 or 129 S. Governors Ave. It would not make sense to add more parking if there would be a garage nearby, he pointed out.“Parking is so expensive that unless you have some type of aid coming to it, it can kill deals. It’s part of the reason why we partnered with Colonial, because we need that expertise to come up with a workable solution,” Childress said. “These requirements make a lot of sense, and it will really spur developers from coming here.”
City officials will present proposed zoning changes to the Dover City Council on Oct. 24. Final reading of the ordinance is on target for Feb. 12, 2024.
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