The proposed changes, which the commission finalized in its Monday meeting, will now go to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for consideration. Meanwhile, a moratorium is currently in effect barring construction of any multi-family residences in the district.
The recommendations include:
• Limiting properties to single-family or two-family residences, rather than the current unlimited number
• Consider adoption of a neighborhood conservation overlay district for the existing Old Town District which would impose certain guidelines for construction and for space utilization regarding parking and landscaping
• Consider expanding the boundaries of the proposed conservation overlay district beyond the Old Town District as far north as Shiloh Road, west to Polk Street and east to the Douglas Street / railroad area
With a mixture of residential and office properties, the Old Town District includes an area generally south of Main Street and west of Douglas Street and is considered a transitional area between the downtown business district and surrounding residential areas. Zoning regulations adopted in the 1960s allowed a diverse mix of structures to coexist there.
Now, there is concern that those regulations do not do enough to protect property values of the area. After a fire destroyed a home at Linden and Polk in December, questions arose about what could replace it. The house had been a duplex for some time during its history.
“I think the real concern was the character of the neighborhood and the quality of the construction,” said commission member Lee Thurner.
The commission views the neighborhood conservation overlay as one way to address the issue of cheap construction that could harm property values. But they don’t want it to be excessive in its reach.
“I would hate for the city to impose regulations that can reduce the value of somebody’s property by restricting what they can build on it to an unreasonable degree,” said Thurner.
While their recommendations would limit multi-family properties, the commission members agreed that apartment duplexes are not necessarily a bad thing.
“They can be as nice as single-family houses, and there are some in town that are nicer than a lot of single-family houses,” said Thurner.
In other business before the planning commission / board of adjustment, the panel will recommend approval of a subdivision plat and a variance regarding lot size for a property at the intersection of Taylor Street and Shiloh Road where Bryan Price plans to build spec houses on a lot that will be split. A variance is needed because the southernmost of the two parcels would have 8,287 square feet in an R-1A zone, which requires a 10,000-square-foot lot.