Zoning Amendments Will Return To Council On Aug. 11 Agenda

July 29, 2008

Possible amendments to West U.’s zoning ordinances aimed at increasing off-street parking hit a snag at last night’s special city council meeting due to the words “ordinary, practical use.” The amendments were presented to council by Zoning and Planning Commission Chair Steve Brown.

The term refers to maneuvering areas to allow easy access to garage parking spaces. The current ordinance specifies a minimum maneuvering area of 24-feet long and at least two feet wider than the garage opening. The proposed amendments would eliminate the specific requirements, requiring only maneuvering areas that allow “ordinary, practical use” of each required parking space.

“The ordinary, practical use has been in the ordinance for a while,” said Jim Dougherty, acting legal council for the ZPC, who added that the amendment actually relaxes the standard for single family houses.

Councilman Michael Talianchich and Councilwoman Phyllis Cohen expressed concern that the wording was too vague and subjective.

“It comes down to the chief building official,” said Talianchich. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. It could be someone difficult who doesn’t like someone – they would have to go in and appeal. I don’t like it that a chief building official has to be involved in making a subjective decision about something.”

“I have a similar concern,” said Cohen. “We want our ordinances to be easily enforceable. I am uncomfortable with that subjective standard because we don’t know how it’s going to be enforced or who is going to be enforcing it.”

“You are projecting a case in which there is some animus between the builder and the building officials,” said Brown. “Their supervisor makes sure they are working within the law and being good servants to the West U. public.”

Additional suggested amendments would require a nine-foot minimum driveway width, “mirror to mirror.” While the paving would not necessarily have to be 9-feet wide, the unobstructed air space would. There is no minimum width in the current ordinance. The ZPC initially suggested a 10-foot minimum, but public hearings indicated a lack of support for the 10-foot width.

Single family houses would be required to have two enclosed, garage parking spaces with an additional parking space available that is not “atop a sidewalk.” Pervious pavement would be allowed as an alternative to hard-surfaced pavement.

Talianchich suggested that the amendments would do little to encourage off-street parking.

“The issue really isn’t going to be resolved by any of this,” said Talianchich. “I would encourage an edict from us to encourage people not to park on the street at night. I would prefer that to this.”

The special meeting ended with Dougherty agreeing to go back and tweak the wording, and the issue will come before council again at the Aug. 11 meeting.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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