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SEATTLE-After more than two decades of restricted growth, the University of Washington will be allowed to lease an unlimited amount of space in the University District or anywhere in the city thanks to a 6-3 vote by the City Council on Monday.

Dating back to 1985, the UW was limited to leasing only 241,950 sf in an attempt to ease concerns about the university’s expansion into the neighboring community. Those space restrictions were expanded to 400,000 sf in 1991 and then to its current level of 550,000 sf in 1998. In deciding in favor of lifting the lid, the council noted its wishes that the UW concentrate 75% of its leasing efforts in the core University District area immediately west of the main campus. The UW’s leasing activities in the area will then be reviewed in five years to assess the number of new housing units created, the number of university jobs created and whether the UW has influenced the housing situation in the district.

“Lifting the lease lid sustains momentum on our jobs creation agenda,” said Mayor Gregory J. Nickels in a statement released after the council vote on Monday. “In the University District, we’re moving forward on implementing the neighborhood plan and meeting goals for transportation, public safety, economic development and community building. Citywide, we’re moving forward to create jobs, but there’s more to do.”

At the same time, the council approved two resolutions that call for the development of more housing stock in the district, as well as a change to the city’s noise ordinance. The housing legislation calls for the development of targeted housing strategies aimed at the core University District Northwest Urban Center Village as designated in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The strategy includes modified parking requirements, as well as additional height bonuses for mixed-use projects with substantial residential components, and a review of local zoning requirements to encourage further housing growth.

Changes to the noise ordinance create a new violation for frequent, repetitive or continuous noise emanating from a private residential property that could be heard 75 ft away late at night. The change also imposes a $250 civil fine for a first violation and abatement proceedings against a tenant or owner for three or more violations within a 12-month period.

“This is a three-step process that began with infrastructure improvements to the Ave that the council initiated several years ago. The lifting of the lease lid and noise ordinance change are the second step, and the resolutions and ongoing incentives for housing and retail revitalization will be the next step,” says city councilmember Jan Drago who helped steer the legislation through the council.

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