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Thread: Single-family design standards - affect on property values

  1. #1
    Cyburbian brian_w's avatar
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    Single-family design standards - affect on property values

    I have been working with another planner in our office on adopting design standards for single-family homes in our City. The standards include no "snout" garages, requiring windows on all elevations, and requiring compatibility for infill housing with its surrounding environment.

    The two ordinances we have prepared (one for older infill districts, and one for newer "greenfield" subdivision areas) have been sent to the homebuilders in town for their input. As expected, everyone is in an uproar saying they will lose all of their home plans if they can't build snout garages, etc. The question that has arisen from more than one person is if this change is being proposed for aesthetic purposes only. We'd like to know if anyone out there can point us to any studies that show how these standards, either negatively or positively affect property values or do anything more than just improve the aesthetics of a community. As a planner, I feel aesthetics are enough of a reason, but we can't sell that to the development community or the Common Council that has to adopt these ordinances.

    Any suggestions?
    You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Can I assume that with no front loaded garages (I don't share your derison of this style so won't use the word you did) that all singles would require side-loaded garages?

    Or are there opportunities for rearloaded carriage style homes?

    One impact of essentially requiring side-loaded garages is that your lots will typically need to be larger and therefore the price of housing will likely increase.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I've always been a big fan of the rear or side yard garage. Detaching the garage just opens up so many more architectural options for the home.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian brian_w's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    Can I assume that with no front loaded garages (I don't share your derison of this style so won't use the word you did) that all singles would require side-loaded garages?

    Or are there opportunities for rearloaded carriage style homes?

    One impact of essentially requiring side-loaded garages is that your lots will typically need to be larger and therefore the price of housing will likely increase.
    Front facing garages would still be allowed, but would have to be even with the front of the house. Side loaded garages are allowed, but I share in your concern that it does have an affect on lot size. That is one of the issues we are trying to deal with. As an Illinois home builder told me once "You people up here (in Wisconsin) like to have your ATV's and boats so everyone needs to have a 3-car garage."
    You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Right, it requires the developers to build differently. Back-loading garages require alleys and eliminate the private backyard. Side-loaded garages require lots with more frontage. Front-loaded, recessed or in-line garages force developers to use floor plans with smaller first floor areas. Are there things you can do to mitigate the impacts? Reduced street setbacks? Corner lots with garages on the side street?

    Back to your point, I seem to recall an article that suported your claim of higher values in subdivisions with design guidelines. I can't remember where it was... National Association of Home Builders, maybe? I believe I have it in my planning library at home.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian dogandpony's avatar
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    Can you give a bit more background on the approach that you've laid out in your town? For example, are these standards that you are trying to work into your zoning ordinance as a text amendment, or are you trying to adopt a new process of design review?

    I've seen some economic studies supporting preservation, which at the end of the day is design review through design preservation. You might want to check out the National Trust.

    There are some things that I think it's just better to codify into your zoning code, either through limits on "bad things" (front facing garages, requiring minimum fenestration levels), and encouraging "good behaviour" (front porches permitted to encroach in a yard, encouragement of dormers, bay windows, chimneys and other elements that add architectural interest to a structure).

    For the most part though, I think zoning has failed to be a useful tool to encourage really good design, it does however allow for some squashing of really bad things. It sounds from your post that there are some pretty bad things happening already if your needing to encourage people to put windows in. Of course, windows cost money. I'm guessing you probably aren't gettting much landscaping, or tree preservation either?.

    Is monotony of design an issue? If so, maybe that approach should be considered in addition to design standards. Or tree protection, landscaping, etc. landscaping, or better yet, protecting existing trees, can go a long way...

    In the absence of support for design review, we've adopted some quasi-design standards in our zoning code which frustrate me to no end, including an "articulation" requirement limiting the length a wall can extend before it must jog by a couple of feet. Sounds interesting? Don't count on it...

    I have a pet peeve with communities who have codified a requirement that a house be brick either in total, or on the front elevation. I can't see why a town would want to encourage that much brick, and there is plenty of ugly brick out there.

    Have you consulted with builders and architects to see if there are any things in your zoning code that prevent them from "doing the right thing?". Of course, any time you open up that dialogue, you'll have no shortage of people who are willing to *itch about everything. But, we've found through some of those conversations that we're unintentionally discouraged good design.

    With respect to garages, we've tried to incorporate limits on garages with some success, both from the "carrot" and "stick" perspective. My town has a history of detached garages at the rear of lots (with and without alleys), so it wasn't too much of a stretch to adopt standards encourage people to continue that behaviour.

    Our first step was to provide incentives for detached garages in the form of Gross Floor Area allowances for detached garages at the rear of the lot. Only later did we impose limits on garages at the front. And in doing so, we didn't make them illegal altogether, just limited them. We couldn't necessarily come out and say that all front loaded garages are illegal, since a lot of our large lot, estate type developments have front loaded garages without being necessarily awful.

    At the same time, we wanted to limit the extent to which the garage dominates the front elevation, so we limited the garage to no more than 50 percent of the front building elevation, which on a 50 foot lot pretty much eliminated the front facing doors, while permitting them on the larger 100 foot wide "estate" lots.

    we also required, through our zoning amendment, garage doors facing the street to be no more than 8 feet wide, versus the large 16' double door type to at least try and give it some scale that doesn't shout "two cars in here!!"

    Engineering folks will tell us from time to time that we're adding to drainage problems to the extent we're encouraging people to pave a driveway nearly the full length of a lot to get at a garage at the rear, versus one in the front. To which I shrug and reply "life is full of tradeoffs". However, it is fairly univerally held that it's easier to drain pavement from a front yard to the street than it is to drain a backyard anywhere but to a neighbor (at least without the help of a stormwater drain / catch basin. Again, just something to think about...
    Last edited by dogandpony; 12 Apr 2005 at 7:48 PM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian urbanchik's avatar
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    Detroit, MI
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    Property values decrease when the characteristics of that property or area become undesirable to a majority of people. Sure we planners dislike protruding garages and feel that is must negatively affect property values, but that is only because we feel so strongly about this particular issue and it may influence our personal decision to buy a particular home. But most of America still sees nothing wrong with protruding garages, even though in focus groups people may prefer a photo of a street where a garage isn't the dominant feature. It doesn't mean it will affect property values. Attitudes are changing, though, so I think you goal has merit.

    In infill sites, I think it is fair to require compatility with the neighborhood. In my 1940's neighborhood, infill homes that were built with protruding garages and flat elevations sit on the market forever. There must be a correlation there. No one wants to buy the house that is so obviously different from the rest of the neighborhood in such a manner. It also isnt fair to existing homeowners. Think of "big foot lots" - a heated debate in Detroit. Even though the proposed homes are ofter grander, more expensive and exquisite, they dwarf existing homes and have a negative impact on the street. Many established and highly desirable communities now have "big foot" ordinances to prevent such an occurance.

    But for new subs, I think it is unfair to require "snoutless" garages and windows on all elevations unless it is a historic district. There is still a market for protruding garages, mainly because the resulting floor plans are airy and flow better and are thereby most desirable. Such a requirement serves to basically fulfill an opinion(even if a valid one) and only relates to aesthetics. I know builders in our area have introduced more homes where the garage is flush with the front elevation or if there is a protruding garage, it is a side-entry (looks odd, but better than a 16' garage door). Perhaps you can offer incentives for builders who achieve the city's goal.....

    The window requirement can really affect the bottom line and hence affordabilty. Homes that lack windows on side elevations are marketed as affordable. So if you need affordable or market rate housing, I dont think this aesthetic issue is fair.

    Good luck!
    urbanchik

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wisconsinplanner's avatar
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    Kenosha, WI
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    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    Can you give a bit more background on the approach that you've laid out in your town? For example, are these standards that you are trying to work into your zoning ordinance as a text amendment, or are you trying to adopt a new process of design review?
    I am the other planner who wrote the standards for infill development in our older residential districts. To answer your question, the standards will be a text amendment to the zoning ordinance.

    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    There are some things that I think it's just better to codify into your zoning code, either through limits on "bad things" (front facing garages, requiring minimum fenestration levels), and encouraging "good behaviour" (front porches permitted to encroach in a yard, encouragement of dormers, bay windows, chimneys and other elements that add architectural interest to a structure).
    In both residential districts, attached garages would be limited to 50% of width of the house. In newer subdivisions, attached garages could extend in front of the living area of the house if a porch is added that is flush with the front of the garage. In the older residential districts, an unenclosed and partially covered porch having a mininum depth of 6 ft is required; however, the porch is allowed to encroach in the front yard by 6 feet, and in any rear or side yard, up to 20% of the required yard (max. 6 ft.).

    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    Is monotony of design an issue? If so, maybe that approach should be considered in addition to design standards.
    Our current ordinance coveres monotony to a degree, but we realize this has become more of an issue. We are not adding any further restrictions concerning monotony at this time.

    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    Have you consulted with builders and architects to see if there are any things in your zoning code that prevent them from "doing the right thing?". Of course, any time you open up that dialogue, you'll have no shortage of people who are willing to *itch about everything. But, we've found through some of those conversations that we're unintentionally discouraged good design.
    The ordinances are out for review now with the builders. Our ordinances now are fairly "loose" when it comes to design of houses and monotony. It is more a problem with home builders wanting to use stock designs that have little character. We have also had dialogues with them back when we adopted our TND zoning districts.

    I will clarify why we are attempting to include some design standards in our zoning districts. Both our Plan Commission and the Mayor have given us a charge to make this happen, so we are attempting to address problems with protuding garages, lack of windows and bad infill development.

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