Saturday, March 15, 2008

Home size/lot coverage zoning

Ok folks, this is the third and final post (Parts 1 and 2) related to the upcoming zoning ordinance change that results in downzoning most residential single family homes in the city of Fredericksburg. In ten days, on March 25, there is supposed to be a public hearing on the matter. I highly recommend anyone owning a residential property to come out and here how you are going to be affected. You will no longer be able to build the same size addition as before, if you found yourself in a situation to rebuilt, you are going to be more restricted after this ordinance than before.

Ok, so enough with the sky if falling talk. In my last post I promised to give one reason why this ordinance may be good. Previously I had pointed out that the harm in building a large modern home is generally being opposed as a visual abomination. I found it hard to imagine the city has spent so much time and effort trying to fix something because people don't like the way something looks. That these neighbors would have a hard time trying to prove harm from "large homes" nearby in their neighborhood.

Here it is: Included in this ordinance is a restriction on lot coverage. Depending on the width (not depth) of the lot, you may be able to cover either 40% (for lots under 40 feet) or 30% (for those over 40 feet wide). This might - and I say that with some reservation - be supported by an argument for reducing runoff during storms. The more you cover a lot, the less ability the ground has to assorb water runoff during a storm. As more water is forced onto the roadway an into the storm drains, the more susceptable the area is to flooding. Houses can help abate this by landscape design. In extreem cases cisterns can capture water from gutters that can then be distributed later for irrigation and watering after the storm has passed. I stated that I have some reservation to using this as an argument for the changes, because the ordinance does not have any limits on other structures or driveways, which all affect total land coverage. At the same time the ordinance reduces coverage, also reduces height. If you can't build out, then the only other way to go is up.

So in a year when budgets are tight, when we need to have people interested in the city, when every building is an opportunity to hire local labor and put investment back into the city, this ordinance change is the wrong plan. I believe that our current system of measuring height and setbacks is completely adequate for a city where space is limited. I believe that the changes being proposed don't fix "character" as originally requested by the council. I believe that if residents want to have control of the houses down the street, they should put it to a vote for the entire neighborhood to create an overlay district. I personally enjoy the fact that my neighborhood is not in an associtation, that I'm not having to go to the ARB for every change I make. I enjoy living in a vibrant city that still has new homes being built.

At a time when businesses are getting a lot of attention, don't the citizens deserve the opportunity to invest in their own property to the degree that we could when we purchased our property. The final thing that really gripes me about this change, is that it's being voted on by council, not by the citizens that affect them. There has been no ballot initiative that says the majority of residents and owners either agree or disagree.

Please take the time to read the announcement on the city website when it is released, and take a look at my three articles here. There are also links in the previous posts to items in the FLS. Before you make a decision one way or the other, take a time to look at the facts, and what this will do to the city, then come speak up at the public hearing.

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