‘Street Area’ Debate: Council Tightens Building Site Language

September 15, 2011

The West U City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance to clarify the requirements for building sites along Mercer and Poor Farm Ditch.

A moratorium was put in place in May to halt development of platted lots in that area after a developer approached the city with plans to build four homes on two Mercer Street lots.

The two parcels have large “back lots” that back up to Poor Farm Ditch, where a right of way, called Virginia Avenue, currently exists but no street exists. The developer’s building plans only showed access to the back lots through a cul-de-sac off of Mercer.

The city’s ordinances require all homes to abut a “street area.” The developer believed that Virginia Avenue met the city’s definition of “street area” and that their plans met the ordinances, without any variances or re-plat.

The city did not agree with their interpretation and rejected the four building site designations because the developer was not the owner of the lots and Virginia Avenue did not constitute a street.

The developer is no longer pursuing the project, city officials said.

There are about 16 large parcels of land on Mercer that could potentially be developed into 32 single family lots.

The city had 120 days after the moratorium was put in place to review its ordinances and the effects on platted lots in that area.

The ZPC approved a preliminary report in June with new language for the requirements of a building site. The commission had to approve the report before it could be presented to council.

“What I think we’re trying to do here is to make sure that moving forward no applicant for a building permit can be confused about what the requirements are for a building site and cannot be confused in any way about the fact that this must be on a constructed street, not some airy, fairy street that was on a drawing 80 years ago,” ZPC Chair Steve Brown said during their June meeting. “If we’re going to put a boiler plate into the ordinance, let’s be sure that it’s crystal clear and firm.”

The ZPC proposed an amendment to the zoning ordinance to “clearly establish that a conforming building site must abut a constructed and approved vehicular access way that is contained within a dedicated right of way.”

Council held a joint public hearing with the Zoning and Planning Commission on Aug. 22 to hear comments about the amendment. No one signed up to speak, but two people asked questions about the public hearing.

The ZPC and city staff recommended that council approve the amendment.

Residents have until Sept. 26 to comment on the proposed changes.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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