Land development code issues – update

Really, it's not about the garages

Last week, I was live-blogging the Planning Commission meeting as they considered whether the “new” (about 6 months old now) land development regulations applied to subdivisions which had been approved under the former code.

On Monday, the Council accepted the Planning Commission’s recommendation to allow a broad exemption for lots subject to a development agreement – allowing the projects at or near the building permit stage to move forward – but also directing the Commission to consider how to resolve the issue in the longer term.

The issue is not, as some commenters over on the local newspaper site believe, about permitting 3 car garages.  Nothing in the code says 3 car garages are prohibited.  What’s changed is where the garage can be placed and the proportion of the front facade of the house occupied by garage doors.  The problem is, all the lots were platted (and many graded) on the assumption that the 3 stall, garage out in front, style of home would be built.  Since the platted lots are on wide suburban streets in residential only areas, allowing big front garages on the remaining lots (many of which are zoned as planned unit developments which are clearly exempt from the regulations) does not seem to point toward many problems, or many more problems than are inherent in the subdivision.

Because really, the new code is not about garages at all, but about trying to reverse the rapid horizontal development which makes it more expensive to maintain streets and pipes, manage stormwater, plan transit routes, or walk to school.  To accomplish these goals and save your tax dollars, we’ll have to change streets, setbacks, lot sizes, and larger scale issues than the garage doors.  Garages are just one extremely visible symptom of a development pattern which is economically unsustainable.