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Panel considers Old Town District concerns
by Jebb Johnston
Apr 29, 2014 | 39 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Much has changed since the Old Town District zoning regulations went on the books in the 1960s.

The city’s planning commission began on Monday to discuss whether the district as it exists today needs a stricter set of rules. A 90-day moratorium is in effect in the district on the construction of anything that is not single-family residential until the city reaches a decision.

Multi-family units such as apartment duplexes are a big part of the discussion.

“Property owners have looked around the city and seen what has been built in other parts of the city and are saying, ‘I don’t want that in my neighborhood because it’s going to affect my property values.’ That’s the issue,” said David Huwe, director of community development and planning.

Including streets such as Linden, Gloster, Bunch and Kilpatrick, it is a transitional district between the C-3 central business district and residential zones. It can accommodate offices, homes and apartments with no limits on the number of units, although structures are limited to 35 feet in height.

The district requires a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet, and “that’s pretty small compared to most of our other residential areas,” said Huwe.

Building Inspector Greg Tyson said an apartment duplex could be built in an R-2 zone on no less than a 13,000-square-foot lot that would also accommodate off-street parking.

Huwe said the commission may want to look at parking requirements.

In addition to the lot size concerns, there is a sense that the current regulations do not protect the character of the neighborhood.

“It’s a neighborhood of old houses — a good many historic old houses that are well over 100 years old — and you just don’t want to plop down” a cheap rental property, said commission member Lee Thurner.

However, “With respect to property values,” he said, “you can build a single-family house that’s pretty tacky. Just restricting it to single-family is not going to get it done.”

He raised the possibility of requiring an architectural review process for compatibility with the neighborhood but acknowledged that can be controversial.

The commission, which is an advisory panel to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, took no action and will continue the discussion at another meeting.

Questions about what is allowed in the district arose following a fire that destroyed a structure at Linden and Polk several months ago. It was originally a single-family home that had been a duplex for some time and was being converted back to single family at the time of the fire, the building inspector said.

In other business, the board agreed to recommend approval of a zoning variance to allow First Presbyterian Church to use an acquired residential property on Eighth Street across from the church for church purposes.
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