OGDEN -- The city council has hired a professional facilitator for a Nov. 4 work session at which a controversial request to increase building height limits on Historic 25th Street will be considered.
Information regarding how much the city council will pay facilitator Pam Gardiol, president of Gardiol & Associates, was not available Thursday because a contract hasn't been finalized, said Janene Eller-Smith, a policy analyst for the council.
Gardiol, a former chairwoman of Ogden's planning and landmarks commissions, said her experience in those two positions has aided her as a facilitator. "It helped me be impartial," said Gardiol, who declined to say how much she is being paid by the council.
Gardiol has served as a facilitator for the city of Seattle, the Utah Department of Transportation, Salt Lake County and other entities.
The request to amend an ordinance regulating building height limits is being made by the Historic 25th Street Association.
The purpose of the amendment is to allow new four-story structures to be constructed on some of the 11 vacant lots along 25th Street, said Steve Conlin, president of the association. The proposed change isn't tied to a specific project, he said.
Several city council members have expressed concern that waiving building-height restrictions would jeopardize 25th Street's National Historic Registry designation and eligibility for federal funding.
Altering height restrictions would not threaten 25th Street's historic registry designation, Greg Montgomery, the city's planning manager, has said.
City Councilman Bart Blair said he favors using a facilitator to help with the height issue. "We want to try to make sure that both sides of the issue are represented," he said.
Councilman Doug Stephens questioned whether it is necessary to change the height ordinance, as there is no building project on the table for 25th Street that requires the height extension.
"That doesn't mean we shouldn't go ahead and review it," he said. "The height ordinance isn't going away, so it behooves us to talk about it in a work session. It's prudent for us to gather information to analyze the importance of the height ordinance."
The amendment under consideration by the city council would prohibit existing buildings on 25th Street from being increased in height through rooftop additions or additional stories unless:
SBlt Documentation is presented establishing that additional height is within the limits of the building's historical construction.
SBlt The addition is not visible from the front of the building or from the sidewalk on the same side of the street or across the street.
The purpose of the upcoming work session is to address specific concerns related to building heights as well as determine how to shape the future of 25th Street, according to an e-mail Bill Cook, the council's executive director, sent to council members and others, obtained by the Standard-Examiner.
The city council work session also will have an educational component that will include a presentation on historic preservation.
Conlin said he's eagerly anticipating the work session. "As an association, we look forward to public dialogue," he said. "We think that a 55-foot height (for 25th Street buildings) is certainly reasonable." The current height limit is 45 feet.
Ron Atencio, chairman of the city's Landmarks Commission, also agrees the work session will be beneficial.
"I am impressed that city council listened to the stakeholders and held up on their vote on the subject of the ordinance change on Historic 25th street from 45 feet to 55 feet until they hear everyone and thoroughly look at all angles on the subject," he e-mailed the Standard-Examiner.
Height restrictions within the 25th Street Historic District have been in place since 1989 and are aimed at keeping buildings in scale with existing structures.
Union Station, which stands 58 feet tall, and a building at 115 25th St., which is 50 feet tall, were built before the restrictions went into place.
The restrictions don't apply to towers, such as the Times Square building at the southwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and 25th Street.
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