Development code nears end of revision
City wraps up 10-year redrafting, plans to seek input
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-08-29
It’s been 10 years in the making, but revisions to the document that guides all development in the City of Gunnison have wrapped up.
Next, Community Development Director Steve Westbay plans to take the draft Land Development Code (LDC) on a “traveling road show” — giving entities such as the Rotary, realtors and developers a chance for input before it’s adopted.
Setbacks required for solar gain and new restrictions on accessory dwellings are among the requirements intended to address what city leaders call growing trends.
The draft LDC was presented to City Council last week, with Westbay highlighting some of the changes that have taken place since 1997. The intent of the 282-page updated document is to provide a unified code that allows users to find all related land-use control provisions for the city in one source.
But the LDC has taken a long and bumpy road on its way to near-completion. A year ago, sandwich boards and electronic message board signs in downtown Gunnison took center stage during the Gunnison Planning and Zoning Commission’s review of the LDC. Action was quickly taken to update the sign code portion of the larger LDC before moving on with revisions. Other projects, such as the Gunnison Rising annexation, also have also consumed much of the attention of planning commission in recent years, stalling work on the LDC.
In revising the document, city leaders said they looked to make the code more predictable and understandable, in addition to addressing new trends.
In accordance with the latter, buildings will have to accommodate neighboring property’s solar panels through additional setbacks. The document stipulates the adjustment in the standard setback for residential zones to “facilitate reasonable solar access for all residential properties.” Currently, setbacks in the R1 zone from the side and rear lot lines of a property are 10 feet, with rear and side lot line setbacks in all other residential zones of 5 feet.
When the new setbacks were first proposed and reviewed by a previous City Council, concerns were expressed by late, former councilman Rick Miller. Miller’s view was that the solar provision may be too onerous for people who chose to live in the city to “build the maximum amount of building for our property.”
The requirement does allow for alternative compliance, giving the Community Development Director the power to approve an alternative site layout. The plan must clearly identify and discuss the modifications and alternatives proposed, and should show that it would better accomplish set standards. Site conditions, such as lot size and configuration and topography, may also be taken into account for alternative compliance.
Additional rules governing accessory dwellings also have been added in the draft document. They include lot size requirements and dimensional limitations.
Also in the draft LDC is a section on waivers — how to apply for them, review criteria, and the approval process. The previous LDC allowed for specifically defined variances, but no true waivers other than deviations in some street standards were offered. A whole section of waivers is now defined by the draft document.
The waivers apply generally to development and natural resources and designate the level of review each waiver requires. For example, laying asphalt of a thickness less than the standards stipulate could be allowed via a waiver from the city engineer, but projects with greater impacts to the surrounding neighborhood would go before planning commissioner or City Council.
The draft LDC also offers incentives to developers interested in affordable housing. For all residential zones other than R1, the incentives offered include greater density (up to 50 percent), bonuses, increased flexibility in dimensional standards to allow smaller lot sizes, and reduced frontage than that of the underlying zone district. The city bases its definition of “affordable” on guidelines drafted by the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority.
(Chris Rourke can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)