By Conrad Dudderar
A developer’s long-awaited attempt to build 12 new duplexes on Yukon’s east side has finally received the go-ahead.
The Yukon City Council on July 20 granted Ashton Gray LLC’s appeal of the planning commission’s denial of its request to rezone 200 N Yukon Parkway from C-3 (restricted commercial district) to R-2 (combined residential district) planned unit development.
The rezoning allows for construction of 12 duplexes on a 4.73-acre tract of land on the east side of Yukon Parkway north of State Highway 66 (Main Street). The now-vacant property between a church on the south and a childcare center on the north.
Council Member Jeff Wootton had made a motion to deny the appeal, seconded by Council Member Aric Gilliland. That motion failed 2-3.
Vice Mayor Rick Cacini’s subsequent motion to approve the appeal, second by Council Member Donna Yanda, passed 4-1 with Wootton casting the lone dissenting vote.
The Yukon Planning Commission had twice rejected the applicant’s duplex project – first on Jan. 11 and again on June 14.
Attorney David M. Box, representing Ashton Gray LLC, contended in a June 29th brief that their decision was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable and therefore, must be overturned.”
The application is consistent with Yukon’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and compatible with the surrounding area, he told city council members this week. City staff also recommended approval.
The new duplexes will “act as a buffer” and be a “transition” between higher-intensity commercial development and lower-intensity single-family residential development in the area, according to city planner Cynthia Wright.
The proposed Ashton Gray project is in “total compliance with what the Comprehensive Plan has designated for this site” and meets R-2 zoning requirements, Wright advised council members.
Yukon’s new Comprehensive Plan indicates a “major issue” the City of Yukon faces is the “lack of diversity of housing options” beyond single-family homes, attorney Box said.
“Having other housing types is what is demanded in the market,” he said, noting many young people can’t afford to buy single-family homes.
In his appeal at Tuesday night’s council meeting, Box referred to the planning commission’s reliance on protests and bias toward renters of multifamily housing. He said this discrimination violates federal fair housing laws.
“Fear of a type of person – that being renters – is no basis whatsoever for a city to deny a zoning case,” Box said. “You can have renters in single-family neighborhoods.”
The duplexes will be designed to be “owner occupied” but the market will dictate how many units are owned and rented.
A trend across the metro is for young professionals and “empty nesters” to buy duplexes – then live in half and rent out the other half, Box added.
The attorney referred to the Yukon Crossing II development on the west side of Yukon Parkway, which was approved in 2019 for 95 residential lots (more than 60 for duplexes) – resulting in about 6.5 dwelling units per acre.
The density of the Ashton Gray development will be about 5 dwelling units per acre.
Special conditions approved in the Yukon Crossing final plat allow for considerably smaller lot sizes and lot widths than what are proposed in Ashton Gray’s new duplex project.
“It’s ‘less intense’ than what was just approved in Yukon Crossing,” Box said.
WHAT ABOUT THE TRAFFIC?
Civil engineer Kendall Dillon, of Crafton Tull & Associates, pointed out rezoning the N Yukon Parkway property for 12 duplexes will mean a “significant reduction” in the potential traffic.
If the C-3 zoning remained, Dillon said a 40,000-50,000 square foot retail project could be developed – generating significantly more vehicle traffic.
“The peak hour for commercial would be in the neighborhood of 150-165 trips per hour, whereas it’s 14 in this (duplex) project,” he added.
Under the higher-intensity commercial zoning, Mayor Shelli Selby noted a convenience store, doctor’s office, Dollar General, or similar store could be built there.
Selby said she lives by an OnCue convenience store that was “built in my backyard” – and she’d personally much rather have houses there.
The Ashton Place project will comply with the city drainage ordinance and meet all detention requirements, Dillon added. A homeowners’ association will own and maintain the common areas and detention ponds.
Council Member Gilliland, who represents Ward 4, referred to neighboring residents’ concerns about the impact these duplexes would have on their property values. He asked that “every effort” be made to maintain curb appeal.
Attorney Box told the council this development would help the neighbors’ property values, especially compared to having an “intense commercial use” behind their back fences.
The proposed Ashton Gray PUD requires the duplexes to be at least 70% brick with a “heightened” architectural standard and “extra” landscaping than is required in R-2 zoning, he added. The developer also must install sidewalks.
Yukon Planning Commissioner Jeff Geis said he has no doubt the developer has “good intentions” to build quality duplex homes.
But, Geis noted, there are many areas in the City of Yukon designated or otherwise available for R-2 development.
“This doesn’t happen to be one of them right now,” he said.
The Yukon Comprehensive Plan refers to the need for more people to live and work in Yukon, Geis added. He shared a concern about “taking away” a commercial area that could be occupied by businesses providing jobs for Yukon residents.
Geis also referred to peak traffic congestion near the Yukon Parkway/SH-66 intersection and the need to improve the roadway north of Main Street.
Before the Yukon City Council voted on the appeal, Yukon’s mayor said their decision was complicated.
On one hand, the City of Yukon needs more commercial development to increase its tax base. On the other hand, this undeveloped site has sat vacant “for a long time” and the application “falls in line” with Yukon’s Comprehensive Plan.
Mayor Selby understands why neighboring residents don’t want duplexes on this property.
“But I also want to warn you – sometimes there’s worse things than housing,” she said.
“We don’t make decisions based on personal feelings, but what is best for our city, what is right and what falls along with what our (Comprehensive) plan is.”