City to Tweak Setback Codes, Streamline Process

At the direction of the City Council, Director of Community Development Susan Koleda will modify city planning and permitting procedures as they relate to setbacks in an effort to encourage projects that adhere to code.
Koleda said she aims to rewrite part of the code to allow her office the discretion to approve setback modifications without the need to go through the entire evaluation process, which typically takes up time and incurs permitting fees. The effect, she said, is hopefully that homeowners will keep projects to code as strictly as possible, particularly as it relates to setback modifications.
A setback modification is required for a project when a proposed addition runs afoul of setback minimums — which is the minimum distance required between a property line and any structure. Setback modifications are typically needed when homeowners add onto a home that has an already existing setback violation that existed before the code.
Some such projects, as Koleda explained, are easily justifiable because the geometry of the property and home require utility piping or other incursions into the setback area. More egregious incursions into setback areas are evaluated by the Planning Commission. This would likely continue after Koleda’s changes to the procedure.
The City Council was favorable to the idea of streamlining things for both residents and city staff, with Councilman Greg Brown calling it a “fine tuning” of the city’s code.
“Frankly, it’s taking a lot of staff time to do some of these smaller projects,” said Councilman Jonathan Curtis.
Koleda said she also would try to address various inconsistencies among the planning codes while working on this. She said she expected to present changes in the form of an ordinance to the City Council.

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