June 12, 2003



Plan board recommends new residential district

In a rare split, the Village Planning Commission agreed on Monday to recommend that Village Council create a new zoning district to accommodate larger houses.

At its meeting June 9, plan board approved 4–1 a recommendation to establish Residence A1, in which lots would be required to have a minimum lot width, or frontage, of 75 feet. John Struewing, the commission chairman, and members Cy Tebbetts, Bruce Rickenbach and George Pitstick, Council’s representative on the board, voted yes; Dawn Johnson voted no. There was no comment from residents during the public hearing.

This was one of the few times this Planning Commission did not approve a measure unanimously.

The four board members in favor of the new zoning district said that they supported providing an extra zoning “tool” to help create a wider variety of zoning areas in the village.

But Johnson was concerned that the new district would in effect encourage the development of neighborhoods with larger and more expensive homes. “I’m concerned we’re establishing an opportunity to segregate our community further than it is already being segregated,” she said.

Plan board first considered creating the new district when they recommended that the Village reduce the frontage requirements in its three residential zoning districts. Council agreed, changing, in part, the lot-width standard in Residence A to 60 feet from 75. The frontage requirement in Residence B is now 50 feet, and Residence C is 45.

One of Johnson’s concerns was that while a 60-foot minimum could always be raised according to individual needs, the 75-foot minimum could not be lowered to accommodate a smaller property with smaller needs.

“We’re essentially limiting the potential for the number of houses that could be built,” Johnson said. “We’re encouraging a more wealthy demographic.”

Other plan board members responded by emphasizing the fact that the proposed standards for Residence A1 existed for over 20 years without a problem. Struewing also reminded the group that each zoning change or new zoning district must be approved by the commission, thereby building in a safeguard for unintended zoning. And the districts within one 10-acre plot could always be mixed, Rickenbach added.

The A1 district also allows families with children to have larger properties, Pitstick said. He said that he doubted the larger lot size would attract a more affluent set of elderly or double-income families because they wouldn’t have time to maintain the larger property.

“There is a real advantage to creating an area that facilitates families,” he said.

Johnson maintained that the minimal acreage of developable land in the community coupled with rising prices on larger lots could bring about some “unintended consequences.”

Council will hold a first reading on the recommendation at its next meeting, June 16.

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In other Planning Commission business:

• Frank Douglas of TEC Engineering presented a variety of preliminary observations from the U.S. 68 traffic study, which began last month. Though not all the data has been collected, the commission scheduled a special meeting on July 28 to receive public input on the study’s data analysis, which will be presented that evening. The study coordinators will then incorporate public response and plan board’s input into a final report that will be released at the end of August.

Some of the data that has been collected so far includes inventorying traffic signals, sight distance measurements and street parking. The next steps will be to analyze accident data over the past three years, complete traffic counts, inventory lighting and analyze the geometrics of the U.S. 68 corridor.

The consultants have already observed several things that concerned residents and Village officials about the corridor in the past. They found that the street’s signals were too small, outdated and noncompliant with the current code. The Village has received a State grant to replace the traffic lights on U.S. 68.

The current data also showed that the through truck traffic in the central business district was very obstructive, bikepath crossing was underemphasized, and the pedestrian crossing signs at Short Street were confusing and obstructive.

• Rickenbach and Tebbetts presented a draft of an ordinance containing the purpose and conditional uses for the mixed use zoning district, or district for a commerce park. The two commission members used the draft that former plan board member Steve Heckart had written, recommending that a few changes be made.

They proposed that the uses not be restricted to either research and development business or light manufacturing, but that both be encouraged. The commission also discussed whether dwelling units should be allowed in the district.

Plan board will continue to discuss the commerce park district as well as the site plan review ordinance and the building impediment survey at its next regular meeting on July 14.

—Lauren Heaton