ZTA2007-00001 Zero Lot Line Residences in the R-4 Zoning District - Request for a ZTA for zero lot line dwellings in the R-4 Residential Zoning District

Amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow for no side yard on one side of a lot, provided that at least fifteen (15) feet of separation is provided between adjacent dwellings located on zero lot line lots. (Elaine Echols)


Ms. Echols summarized the staff report.









Mr. Edgerton asked if staff meant that it would take priority over when the other ZTA amendments would be considered.


Ms. Echols replied that it was in the terms of the staff time allocated towards the zoning text amendments.  They would have to wait for the rest of the comprehensive things that the team is working on.  This request would go by itself.


Mr. Edgerton asked what kind of time frame they were looking at. 


Ms. Echols replied that staff’s game plan is to go in July to the public in a round table fashion.  Staff would invite the public, development community and anyone that is interested in it.  They would go over what the bullet points are and get input.  If staff has missed something they want to modify it.  If there are differences of opinions staff will try to pull them together.  If not, then staff would bring all of that to the Commission with what staff thinks should be the proposal and let the Commission say whether they agree with the bullet points or not and what they think should happen.  That would be in the fall or late August, early September to get that to the Commission.  Then staff would develop it into the ordinance language.  Once they get it into the ordinance language staff wants to know if the Commission wants it to go back out to the public or to go ahead and take it then.  Once it is in the Commission’s hands, then they have control over the timing of it.  Staff wants to get it to the Commission as soon as possible, but also want to use their time wisely and provide as many public input sessions for people that are interested in it to get it into shape. 


Mr. Edgerton said that he heard that it would be some time next winter before it would be ready for adoption.  In the staff report it appeared that staff is working towards going further than what the applicant is asking for.  Frankly, that is more consistent with what the Commission has asked for in the Neighborhood Model in trying to create a more urban situation.  Is there any reason the applicant could not come in and ask for a variance from the existing and achieve the same thing?  Typically most applicants’ interest would be on a specific piece of property.  Legally could they come in and ask for a variance from the existing ordinance.


Mr. Kamptner replied that they could ask, but the standards for granting a variance are very restrictive.  They would have to show that there is no reasonable use of the property without the variance.


Mr. Edgerton said that was really not an option. 


Mr. Cannon asked if there was any alternative to a variance.


Mr. Kamptner replied that adopting a regulation in the zoning ordinance that allows the Commission to modify any setback requirement in any zoning district with criteria was the other alternative.


Mr. Cannon said that would be a complicated effort in its self.


Mr. Kamptner replied that the regulation itself would be simply.  It does not require the analysis as to the appropriateness of zero lot lines on a district wide or a multi-district wide basis.  So they would look at these case by case. 


Ms. Joseph asked if there could be simple language added to the ordinance that would allow that to happen.


Mr. Kamptner noted that it might be simple.  Once they get into it they might realize that they are opening a can of worms.  The other way to approach the issue, rather than having that issue addressed by a regulation that allows zero lot lines, would require the applicant to come to staff or the Planning Commission to request for a modification of the setback requirements on a case by case basis.  It is the other way to deal with these kinds of issues aside from variances, which are hard to obtain.


Ms. Joseph asked if it would be standards that would be considered on a case by case basis.


Mr. Kamptner replied that there would have to be criteria, which he could not tell them what those would be right now.  One would be that it would promote public health, safety and welfare.


Mr. Morris said that they did not enough information at this time on what the fire and safety has to say about this. 


Ms. Echols said that the Fire and Rescue people look at the Fire Code and Building Code.  The Building Code can accommodate most everything because it is all about fire ratings.  In many ways it is more about the light and air issue than it is the Building Code.  The Building Code can accommodate a connected wall.  It is just that there are different fire ratings on the different walls.  Then they have to ask if they want the Building Code to regulate what happens on a lot solely or is there more to it like the light and air issues for which setbacks were initially put into zoning ordinance.  She felt that there was more to it than just the Building Code.  There needs to be some separation where they have single family development and not joined wall.  That is her personal opinion, which was something the Commission would have to wrestle with.


Mr. Edgerton said that they were in a tricky situation.  If there was some way to add some simple language without requiring an enormous amount of staff time where the Commission could consider something that is less than what staff is on the way to proposing would be great.


Ms. Joseph noted that the Commission first saw this in February.  In February they talked about going out and talking to the public. Then in February it came back to the Commission in a public hearing.  At that point the Commission said that they needed to talk to the people who use this stuff and come back.  The fact that the applicant said that they can’t wait any longer that they need to do this plus the fact that the DISC Committee said that they should start looking at zero lot lines makes here frustrated now.  It is going to take them longer and longer. 


Mr. Edgerton said that it was taking forever because of limitation of staff time and the incredible development pressure.  He was trying to figure out if there is a vehicle where they can respond to an individual applicant in a reasonable way and still not mess up staff’s delivered way of doing this.  To do it right it has to be delivered.  When they have a suggestion as they do with this one where the applicant is asking for less from where staff is already going, then he starts saying that there has got to be some reason here. 


Ms. Joseph said that they have something to start with here.   


Mr. Edgerton said that as Ms. Echols points out if they move this ahead it is going to slow down the other.


Ms. Joseph suggested that instead of a round table that the Commission have a work session and invite the public and get their comment at this point on maybe just this document.  At least it is something to start with instead of starting from nowhere.  She just wants to move this along.


Mr. Cilimberg noted that there has to be something prepared for the public.  The team that has been working on this has reached a point where it is virtually ready to go out and have a discussion with the public and have information that they can see, review and talk about.  If the Commission would like to host that venture they don’t have any opportunity in July because of their schedule. They will end up waiting until August for something that they could otherwise go and discuss in July, unless the Commission wants to set up a special meeting in July.  By having a public opportunity first staff will be able to make some adjustments relating to their input before they bring it to the Commission.  He asked if the Commission would like to find a time in July to do that because their current schedule would not allow it otherwise.


Mr. Edgerton asked that the session be held at 6:00 p.m. on another day of the week other than Tuesday.


Ms. Joseph invited public comment.


Mike Fenner, representative for Rio Road Holdings, LLC that Mr. Craig set up, said that they were happy to offer their services to help facilitate implementation of the zero lot line as proposed.  They have passed along comments to staff since January when they first submitted their request.  Obviously, due to the impact on their project that specifically that they applied for, which is the Stone Water Subdivision off of Rio Road, that timing is very sensitive.  They offer that up as a prototype.  They have feedback from builders in the community that they thought given the narrow lots on a challenging site they have to work with that would be an effective way to bring about some price points and demands in the market place.  As designers they were struck by that was good feedback and how could they accommodate it.  They thought that this was the most efficient means of bringing that about.  They are seeking help from the County to help bring about a better plan and better project.  They would love to get feedback sooner than later, but were happy to offer their services.  Simply put they think they can bring about a better project if they have a zero lot line to work with by right.  It is a means to provide more affordable housing opportunities.  It is a means of providing more density in the development areas and provide more efficient of land within the development areas.  They can speak to a lot of big picture issues.  They fear that it will be another year before the County addresses this concern, which could mean a loss of using this opportunity.  They will look at the amount of separation between the buildings. 


Jack Quinn, resident in the City, asked if they have considered trees and the wildlife.  His soul rejects packing people together and not having wildlife around.  Therefore, he was a little anxious about what was just talked about.  He questioned why staff wanted to put the buildings so close together at 10’.


There being no further public comment, the Commission discussed the issue and made the following request.


The Commission asked staff to schedule a date in July to hold a special work session on the overall amendments on a Thursday evening.  The Commission thought that, by having a special work session for public comment, they might be able to advance the amendments more quickly.  


In summary, the Planning Commission held a work session on ZTA-2007-00001 Zero Lot Line Residences in the R-4 Zoning District – Request for a ZTA for zero lot line dwellings in the R-4 Residential Zoning District to consider whether to take up the applicant’s proposal outside of the overall amendment that staff is developing or to consider the proposal as part of staff’s recommended text amendments.  The Commission received input from the applicant, staff and the public.  The Commission discussed the request and decided to consider the applicant’s request in the overall context of the rest of the setback amendments.  The Commission asked staff to schedule a date in July to hold a special work session on the overall amendments on a Thursday evening.  The Commission thought that, by having a special work session for public comment, they might be able to advance the amendments more quickly.  



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