August 15, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 17

Cheney's easier zoning process

Planning Commission gets review of simplified, compacted housing codes

If Cheney’s new zoning code review process can be summed up in two words, it’s likely those words are simplicity and flexibility.

Particularly the latter, something city planner Brett Lucas repeated often as the Planning Commission continued its Chapter 21 reviewing process. At its Aug. 12 meeting the commission focused on Low Density Residential, currently defined as single-family and two-family housing.

The new section is actually two sections combined into one by eliminating the old Single-Family Residential (R-1) Zone, Chapter 21.14, and blending it into the current Chapter 21.20, Two-Family Residential Zone, now referred to as the plural “zones.” One reason for this, Lucas explained, was that much of the same language and requirements for one were also elements of the other.

The language defines single-family residential having a density of no more than five units per acre, while two-family residences – duplexes – have an approximate density of nine units per acre. Zero lot line developments are also being considered.

Part of the simplicity aspect takes place in the form of a “use table,” a feature Lucas said would be common throughout the codes.

“The whole idea is to have the same kind of tables in each chapter,” he said.

The goal of the new standards is to add flexibility for developers while increasing the speed of the permitting process. Those standards are defined as maintaining, “the overall image and character of Cheney’s low density neighborhoods, however, the regulations allow options to increase housing variety and opportunities, and to promote affordable housing.”

Some of the highlights are changes to the minimum and maximum area lot sizes for both zones, and maximum net densities for newly created lots. Other development standards Lucas pointed to were the ratio of a lot a building can cover, which increases to 45 percent from the current 32, and minimum setback changes, such as 5 feet on the side from the current 7 feet, although there could be some flexibility.

“If you want to do a 7 foot side yard, nobody’s stopping you,” Lucas told the commission.

Setback calculations are defined in the chapter as being measured in yards from the property line to the structure wall. Lucas said it’s language not in the current code, and while straightforward, including it prevents the possibility of challenges.

A requirement that garages “should not occupy more than 50 percent of the building façade” drew a comment from Commissioner Christopher Grover on whether that language should be “should not” or “must not.” Lucas noted the proposed language helps create flexibility for the developer.

“It kind of leaves it open for exception,” Grover pointed out.

New language defining duplexes specified structures share a common roof and wall for at least 50 percent of the maximum depth of the building. The current definition provides more leeway, leading to duplexes separated by breezeways, carports or other building elements.

New language is included for zero lot line properties, properties where the house is shifted to one side of the lot, allowing for greater usable yard space. These types of properties must have a “privacy wall” where no doors, windows, air conditioning units or other types of openings are permitted along the zero lot line side of the structure.

The commission also got a brief overview of the proposed new Chapter 21.42, Landscaping and Buffering. Some highlights Lucas pointed to defined landscaping extended to the public right-of-way, that materials be plant species native to Eastern Washington or those naturalized to the area, and that tree species near overhead power lines be a type that at full maturity will not interfere with the lines. Lucas said the latter is a Light Department requirement designed to help the city save money on annual trimming costs down the road.

“This basically gives us some teeth for enforcement,” Lucas said of the chapter provisions.

Once the commission has reviewed the proposed revisions, they will head to the City Council for approval, something Lucas estimated might take place near the end of 2013, beginning of 2014.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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