The Auburn Planning Commission got its first look at proposed revisions to the city's Urban Core Development & Design Standards at a joint work session with the Downtown Design Review Committee on Tuesday.
The DDRC has been discussing revisions to the downtown design standards for more than a year, a task given the committee by the City Council when it was formed.
One of the bigger recommendations would allow more flexibility in allowable materials downtown, including removing the "red-brick" requirement and expanding for number of allowable building materials, two changes that many on both the Planning Commission and DDRC support.
"My sense of our discussions has been that we do not think that we should have a dictated color palette for the city of Auburn. That's just not the way cities evolve," said DDRC member David Hinson. "I think what we want to encourage is quality and diversity and not just sameness everywhere. Nobody's interest is served by that."
Planning Commissioner Wendy Birmingham agreed with Hinson's take on the issue, saying that "Originally when they put together those design standards, I think the intent was to make everything sort of blend in with the university over time, and I don't think that anyone anticipated the scale or scope of the building that was about to occur downtown — an 80 percent red-brick building looks a lot different at two stories than it does at seven.
"I think the intent was honorable but I think it's really time that we take a very hard look at doing something different ... to keep everything from just looking the exact same. I think it's important we remove that palette."
The proposed standards would open up permissible building materials downtown to include "stone, masonry, ceramic tile, terracotta tile, wood (not composite), precast concrete and traditional 'hard coat' stucco' ...."
The proposed design standards would also create a four-street hierarchy for the Urban Core and Urban Neighborhood districts, with varying requirements or allowances for fenestration, story height, ground-story uses, parking lot screening and functional entrances.
"A streets" are generally those found in the heart of downtown Auburn, from Gay and Wright streets to the east and west and from Mitcham and Thach avenues to the north and south. The guidelines would largely aim to protect the commercial nature of those corridors. "B streets" would roughly extend down South College and Gay streets, starting at Thach Avenue, with "C streets" generally encompassing cut-through streets along that corridor, as well as in much of the Urban Neighborhood districts, including down Magnolia and Glenn avenues west of North Donahue Drive. "D streets" are limited in number and generally are found on small streets in Urban Neighborhoods East and South.
With story height, the proposal has landed on a minimum requirement of 18 feet for the ground story, floor to floor, and a minimum height of 11 feet for the next two upper stories on developments on A and B streets. The height requirement for ground-, second- and third-floors would be 11 feet on C and D streets. Other proposed changes dealt with breaking up building mass, facade articulation, alleyways and ground-story uses.
The Planning Commission wants to take a closer look at the proposed standards and will hold a meeting in the near future. There will also be future opportunity for public input.