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New standards set for subdivisions

Different lot size and density requirements

POSTED: July 22, 2013 12:32 a.m.
 

Residential developers in Forsyth County have some new standards to follow.

Commissioners approved several unified development code changes on Thursday, including different lot size and density requirements for the county’s two most popular residential district zonings.

The new performance standards for Res-3 and Res-4 bring the residential zoning categories closer together in minimum lot size and maximum density requirements.

The lot size for Res-3 fell from 14,500 to 10,000 square feet, and Res-4 rose from 6,000 to 8,000 square feet. Minimum home sizes increased in both categories.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said the changes will hopefully deter the trend of more developers selecting the higher-density residential zoning of the two most-used categories.

“Now that the economy has picked back up and we’re doing a little bit better, we’re having this influx of Res-4 zonings,” Mills said. “Res-3 used to be our category of choice, and it was something, I felt, was more manageable. It didn’t quite cause the uproar that Res-4 does.”

In 2007, the county made a change to the zoning district standards, which increased the minimum lot size for Res-3 from 9,000 square feet to 14,500.

Of 18 residential rezoning applications currently at the planning department, 14 are for Res-4, Mills said, citing that as a “big indicator” that the county needed to change the Res-3 standards.

“The thinking in changing it to 14,500 [square feet] was we’re going to control growth, and we’re going to make people build bigger lots, and that has not happened,” she said. “The economy controlled growth, as we all know, but what we’ve done is we’ve forced the development community to go to Res-4, and I don’t think that’s what our community wants as a whole.”

In the county’s future development map, a large majority of the land is characterized as “suburban living,” which includes a Res-3, but not a Res-4 zoning.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on the changes to those two residential categories, which were different from both the initial proposal and the planning board’s recommendation.

The commission requested a review of performance standards for the Res-3 and Res-4 zonings in March, suggesting slightly different lot sizes and densities to what was approved Thursday.

The planning board recommended changes to Res-3, Res-4 and Res-2, but the commission opted to leave Res-2 the same.

Planners recommended leaving Res-4 lot size and density the same, while upping the Res-3 density back to 3 units per acre and lowering the minimum lot size to 10,000 square feet.

The Res-2 recommendation lowered the required minimum lot size and slightly increased density.

During public comments, two people spoke in favor of the commissioners adopting the planning board’s suggestions.

Attorney Ethan Underwood, who often represents developers, said the residential district variations would allow more flexibility in designing subdivisions.

Too many regulations, Underwood said, can lead to “cookie-cutter developments.”

“Use the board’s recommendations to allow yourself discretion,” he said. “It doesn’t have to waive this board’s ability to work with developers, to work with builders and say, ‘We want you to work within in these parameters.’

“We’re just asking you to not squeeze them down so much that we all get a product that we’re not proud of.”

Michael Paris, president of the regional Council for Quality Growth, supported the planning board’s recommendations for all the residential categories.

“We think these changes as recommended provide flexibility and provide you all the option to provide different product types for the necessary growth of this county to support the infrastructure that you need in place to support the future and keep taxes low,” Paris said.

The commission also adopted code changes allowing for administrative variances, reducing the minimum distance between structures, doubling permit expiration periods and removing the time limit on approved variances, except in cases of a change in use.

 

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