Zoning Changes Proposal Ideas 25 March 2011

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Zoning Changes Proposal Ideas 25 March 2011

  1. 1. Northampton’s Urban Residential Zoning Districts:ZRC Dimensional and Design Standards Proposal – Summary of IdeasSome key points from the Zoning Revisions Committee analysis: ● The existing dimensional standards, especially the requirements that govern the number of units per square foot of lot size, and frontage requirements greatly limit the creation of new units in urban districts. ● When structures are converted to a lower number of units, it can be impossible to convert them back to a higher number of units. These standards are contributing to the loss of units and population in urban districts. ● Many accessory structures do not conform to residential setback requirements. This limits their conversion to accessory apartments. ● The setback requirements do not match our current neighborhoods, so new structures are unlikely to be sited in a way that matches—or is in character with--the other homes on the block. ● The current zoning forces the city to lose units over time, which is in direct contradiction to the city’s comprehensive plan, which calls for concentrating development in traditional neighborhoods.Public Feedback and Discussion: The community expressed general support for infill as long asit does not affect the existing character of our neighborhoods. Major concerns that were voicedinclude traffic, parking, intrusions into views or solar access and loss of “green space”.Residents are most likely to be sympathetic to: ● Small infill ● Owner-occupants who want to add units ● Conversions that revert a structure to its historic number of units ● Additional units that help maintaining affordability for owners, as well as renters to a lesser degreeResidents expressed concern about infill projects that: ● Are out of scale with the neighborhood in terms of height, bulk, or number of units ● Add new houses on existing streets (especially through subdivision of lots) – Infill should not feel crammed in and flag lots should not be allowed ● Create multi-family housing on predominantly single-family streets ● Affect land that neighbors feel a “sense of ownership” over, such as privately owned wood or field lots that have been used informally by neighborhood residents ● Result in the demolition of “loved” structures 1
  2. 2. ● Consolidate lots for larger projectsResidents also expressed concerns about: ● Zoning that is difficult to understand, unpredictable or unequally applied ● Effects on property values (increases or decreases in property value)Design-Related Feedback • Concern about projects the block views or sunlight, and that are out of scale with the neighborhood. • However, residents do not seem to want to over-regulate design by creating very specific architectural standards or a complex design review process. • In general, residents expressed a preference for standards that address site design characteristics (how a building is situated on a lot, for example) rather than architectural characteristics (the style and characteristics of the building itself, other than its height and bulk).Summary of Possible Considerations for Short-Term Improvements (next few months)1. Revise the city’s accessory apartment regulations to make it easier to have accessory apartments on owner-occupied properties Key Pts: • Allow accessory units in garages that are closer to property boundaries than homes. For example, this would allow garages that were built at or near the lot line to be converted to accessory units. • Allow conversion of a detached accessory structure into an accessory apartment by- right rather than requiring a special permit. • Allow accessory units in all owner-occupied buildings (not just single-family homes). For example, this would allow owner-occupier residents of two-family or multi-family homes to add an accessory unit. • Allow the entrance to an accessory apartment to be located in the front of the building (in addition to the side or rear)2. Amend the city’s Planned Development regulations to allow for innovative housing and adaptive reuse of obsolete structures by Special Permit. Allow larger projects (pocket neighborhood, cottage housing, adaptive reuse, urban-style townhouses, subdivision projects) by SP with Site Plan Reivew.3. Amend the dimensional tables in the city’s urban residential zoning districts to allow for small infill projects by right. 2
  3. 3. Key Pts for Short-Term Changes • Use performance based approach for small projects: eliminate lot size per unit and adjust setback and open space requirements. o Keep current parking requirements o Replace % open space with contiguous square feet of open space per unit o Set setbacks to better match neighborhoods, with relief by Site Plan Review • However, continue to use minimum lot size and frontage requirements, keeping these numbers somewhat high to minimize splitting of lots that could lead to houses between houses. • In URC, allow 1-4 family projects by right (and change the stds for these, as noted in first bullet pt. above) • In URB, allow 1-4 or 1-3 projects by right. SP for 4-family? (“ “) • In URA, allow 1-2 family projects by right. SP for 3-family? (“ “)4. Establish general design standards with Site Plan Review that apply only to larger projects, projects allowed only by special permit (like innovative dvpts and adaptive reuse above) and projects asking for special permit relief from dimensional stds • Design standards by site plan for any project over 500 square feet? • Standards to cover setbacks, parking, street presence and solar access. Solar access provisions are used to control building massing and distance from neighbors.Possible Medium and Long-Term Recommendations 1. Develop a Design Guidebook with more detailed (non-binding) design guidelines 2. Make map changes / redistricting (medium term – next task of ZRC?) 3. Step by step guide for assessing zoning for typical projects (by OPD) 4. Consider parking permits and parking requirement reductions, with provisions for snow emergency parking. Esp. In URC 5. Add recommendations to make zoning easier to understand. E.g. by reorganizing tables 3

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