Plans for an educational garden project at 4th and Montana could get pruned this week when City Council hears an appeal of the project.
The Rainbow Garden has been trying to take root at 401 Montana Ave. since 2015 and the project recently went before the Planning Commission who approved the use with several conditions. A group of residents have filed an appeal that doesn’t oppose the project opening but does ask for additional restrictions on opening hours and allowed events.
According to the staff report, the project would replace a currently vacant apartment building with an open-plan classroom building and large garden area. The non-profit facility would be open to schools that wanted to learn about gardening, food preparation, nutrition and other related topics. The Planning Commission also allowed the project to host special events throughout the year.
“The appeal points … relate to operating conditions that they maintain will not adequately control activity to protect the neighborhood; the opaque fence/hedge proposed along 4th Street; and impacts related to parking and special events,” said the staff report.
According to staff, some of the appeal requests should be incorporated into the project requirements, some are unnecessary and others could be partially addressed with compromise revisions.
The appellants are asking that a fence around the property be transparent and that the front of the project not be obscured from the street. Staff said the current approvals require the Architectural Review Board to review these concerns and said those decisions should be left to the ARB rather than mandated by Council.
Staff are rejecting a request that mandates the garden be closed on weekends saying it’s not necessary based on the other operating conditions of the site. However, staff supports a request to close the garden on all legal holidays.
Several requests are related to special events that could occur on site. The appellants are asking for additional restrictions on parking during large events, a reduction in the hours of allowed events and a narrower definition of a special event.
Staff are recommending changes to the approval that address some of those concerns. The recommendation says parking requirements are already part of the approval and don’t need a revision however, they are supporting a stricter limit on the ability of special events to make noise after 9 p.m. on weekdays or 10 p.m. on weekends.
Staff also support the final request to restrict the kind of activities that qualify as a special event.
“As discussed above, the Planning Commission expanded the capacity for special events to allow 52 small special events and 12 large special events per year. On this point, the appellants have not questioned the number of events permitted but are seeking to narrow the definition of such events that would be allowed through the CUP entitlement without need to receive a TUP,” said the report. “Given this discussion, and the applicants’ intent for this use to operate within the definition of a school, the appellant’s request to narrow the special events definition is reasonable and seems to be consistent with Planning Commission’s intent. Furthermore, it adds an element of neighborhood protection that is appropriate to include in a conditional use permit.”
Council will meet on Tuesday, May 28 in City Hall, 1685 Main St. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. Open session begins no earlier than 6:30 p.m.