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The planning commission discussed potential amendments to the city's accessory structure regulations during its work session Thursday, Feb. 1.

The commission was asked by the city council to look at a handful of issues with the existing regulations and make a recommendation to council.

Chris Suneson, director of the Community Development Services Department, said that these issues came up during the use and enforcement of the ordinance.

"We need guidance," he said.

With the discussion at this meeting, Suneson said he would generate a specific set of recommendations that the commission can examine and vote on during its regular meeting Monday, Feb. 12.

The first issue, he said, is that under the current regulation, accessory structures are required to be behind the front plane of the house, defined as an imaginary line drawn along the wall containing the front door and extending to the property line. This works in most cases, he said, but presents problems with houses that may have that door on the side or in an otherwise-unconventional place. Moreover, he said, on a corner lot it may be hard to decide which door is the front door.

Additionally, he said, that can cause problems on a curvilinear street. Because the line is straight and the road is not, he said, it can place a severe limit on where a structure can be placed in some cases and allow more options than a resident typically has.

One option, he said, would be to use a similar definition to fence regulations, which focus on the home's front facade and uses the house's corners to draw a line rather than the wall.

Commissioner Shawki Al-Madhoun said that using the front plane as defined in the city's fencing regulations would be sensible and help to simplify the code.

"Based on that, the front facade is the easiest," he said. "I don't care where the door is, it's the facade I'm looking at."

Another issue, Suneson said, is that the current ordinance limits size for accessory structures based on the size of the house -- specifically, its principle floor. On homes that enter into a foyer before splitting into two levels, he said, identifying that principle floor can be problematic.

The commission's chair, Daniel Ellis, said he would prefer to eliminate the proportionality option and stick with a simple cap.

"Why do we even care about the percentage thing?" he asked.

It's unlikely someone will build a massive structure alongside their relatively compact house, he said, and a simple cap at 720 square feet would allow residents to build something as substantial as a three-car garage.

When building on an adjacent lot, he said, it might make sense to go bigger -- 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, for instance -- to provide options for residents with large objects to store, like boats and RVs.

The last obstacle, Suneson said, was height. Currently, he said, an accessory structure may be no taller than an imaginary plane drawn at the roof of the house, meaning a structure built on a hill next to the house may not be as tall as level ground alongside it.

Ellis said that an absolute maximum height would simplify the regulation, but it would need to be tall enough to allow an RV -- which could be accomplished easily with a maximum height of 25 feet.

Because that could be extremely tall, he said, a compromise could be reached with a maximum sidewall height. The commission agreed that a sidewall height of 15 feet and a maximum overall height of 25 feet could work.

During the meeting, the commission also discussed a lot rezoning on Waterside Lane and changes to the city's zoning code to allow for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

General News on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: Planning commission talks about accessory buildings

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