Planning and Zoning Commission makes ‘worthwhile changes’

By Jack King

The Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday approved four changes to the city’s zoning regulations that had been requested by builders and developers.
Director of Building Safety Pete Wilt called them “worthwhile changes” that are “not anything drastic.”
But Planning and Zoning Commissioner Bill Bollinger questioned the practice of having staff meet with Realtors, builders and developers to iron out the changes before they came to the commission and said the commission was making zoning changes in the wrong way.
“Zoning needs to be tweaked, but we shouldn’t cherry pick things that don’t suit you,” he told developers at the meeting.
The four changes are:
• A rule limiting apartments to 14 units per acre now applies only to buildings between four and 10 stories high. Apartments less than four stories high will be limited by the size of the site, the number of parking lots per person, landscaping requirements, setbacks and other planning issues.
• The number of off-street parking spaces required at apartments is revised upward from 2.25 per person to 2.50 per person.
• For single-family houses, attached garages may now be set back from rear property lines only 5 feet. The previous standard required a 15-foot rear setback.
• Builders may now use up to 80 percent of city rights of way adjacent to buildings as part of a minimum 10 percent landscaping requirement.
City Attorney Dave Richards said since the city requires building owners to maintain the right of way adjacent to their buildings, the last provision gives them a credit for the requirement.
Wilt initially told the commission the 5-foot rear setback revision would apply only to houses in planned unit developments, but Realtor Gayla Brumfield objected.
“I didn’t understand it was only for planned unit developments. It wasn’t just for that, I wanted it … that wasn’t what we discussed,” she said.
“The thing that brought us to this point was a house my daughter built. She didn’t get to do that. I think it should be across the board. I don’t know what the difference is in a single family and a planned unit development,” she added.
Builder Bobby Newman said the city should be able to explain the reason for the setback limitation.
“As a city we need to concentrate on police, fire and trash collection. We don’t need to dictate to somebody what he can do with his property — if it doesn’t affect those things,” he said.
He noted that under city ordinance several types of residential structures can be built right on the property line or, in the case of townhouses, up against the next house so long as there is a firewall between.
“If I want to build a garage with no setback, so that I can’t turn in, who does it hurt? I’m the stupid one,” he added.
Wilt revised his original proposal to allow reduced rear setbacks for the garages on all single-family houses.
Assistant City Manager Joe Thomas said he didn’t understand what Bollinger was implying when he raised questions about city staff meeting with developers to discuss the zoning revisions.
“We meet every day with concerned citizens,” he said.
“I’m not saying you gentlemen did anything wrong — except that it should have been done here,” Bollinger replied.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved a zone change from single-family to residential multi-family for property on 600 W. 14th St. About eight area residents attended the meeting to protest the change, saying it would increase traffic in the area.
• Approved preliminary plat approval for a lot in the Colonial Shopping Center, 3907 N. Prince St. Part of the lot is for a planned commercial development. The new plat splits the remainder into two new lots.