Wednesday, February 20, 2008

City Zoning Update

Part 2

For a link to my first rant click here.

Last night city council met with the planning commission on the update to the city's single family zoning ordinance. Hopefully readers will see more detailed coverage in the FLS which also attended, along with at least one other resident, city council, planning commission, and members of the planning department.

It was a study in why politics is sometimes quite difficult. You could see the dilemma council faces of doing something, but with each alternative, they may restrict good development. For example, if you pick a height of 27ft, in some neighborhoods it will fit right in. While in other neighborhoods, someone would say they have done nothing to fix the problem because all of the houses are one story and this allows 2.5 stories.

I would probably loosely group the discussion into two or three buckets.

One group expressed interest in coverage, and wanted to make sure that owners were still allowed to make reasonable additions without having to get a special use permit.

The second group was interested in height, and quickly ran into concern that height in one area didn't match other areas. They also recognized that be fair, new construction in the flood plain is required to be elevated, and that elevation will quickly exceed other homes constructed before the flood rules.

The remaining discussion was around how this may impact values, and does this hold down value. Again, a double edged sword. If values are held down, perhaps that helps maintain affordable housing, yet that comes at the expense of existing homeowners. Some commented that affordable housing should be a separate issue. There were also examples given of houses that meet and don't meet the new ordinance. The public may be surprised that many large homes can still be constructed even under the new rules, especially where multiple lots are combined.

I think they glossed over a change that previously allowed construction in older neighborhoods to set front and side yards based on two lots on either side. The new rules state that setbacks are now going to be based on averages from the entire block and the entire facing block, with no allowance for different zoning in those blocks.

On the one hand there are constituents demanding something be done for preservation, on the other you have constituents demanding their right to have their dream home in a city they love. If the result is something that no one likes, is that the result of good negotiation, or has it been a waste of time to fix what could be considered only an assault on the visual senses? Apparently one owners castle is another owners eyesore.

All said, it was a good meeting, and gave me much more to think about as far as background and what alternatives were considered. For anyone that thinks these guys have an easy job, come attend one of these meetings.

Stay tuned for part 3 where I argue with myself and give you my opinion on why the city might want to implement some of these changes.

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