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Thread: Single family residential homes adjacent to commercial zone

  1. #1
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    Single family residential homes adjacent to commercial zone

    Help!

    We just learned that our beautiful neighborhood of single family residential homes is constructed on land zoned for multifamily dwellings.

    As a result, our planning board wants to approve an application for a retail structure just 75-feet from our lot line.

    If the zoning were accurate for the type of structures currently here (single family) they would be required to give us a 200 foot setback.

    I would appreciate any suggestions as to legal arguments for the protection of homeowners in this situation.

    Secondly, the developer is proposing an enormous retention pond 160 feet by 160 feet in dimension, and 10 feet deep immediately on my lot line, without any barrier, berm, fence or adequate landscaping.

    Does this sound like respectable suburban planning to you????

    Are there professional building planner standards that I could quote in our quest to have some type of barrier required of the developer?

    Are you aware of any websites or organizations willing to assist citizens in these type of land use conflicts?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
         
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    I suggest talking to the Planning Staff and/or alderman/city council representative. While there may not be an ordinance that will stop the development, you may want to make sure you get the best development possible. Make sure that you are involved from the start, many times it won't take a law/ordinace, it will just take you talking with the developer and/or staff and expressing your concerns, you may end up with landscaping/berms things that you would like to see.
    Our community requires buffers between commercial developments and residential USES, not zoning. If there is an existing residential structure and a commercial development is proposed on an adjacent property, Staff will make a recommendation for the required greenspace, regardless of the zoning.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wisconsinplanner's avatar
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    A few questions/comments....

    1) Does the property need to be rezoned prior to construction of the retail development? I am not familiar with New York statutes, but here in Wisconsin, a public hearing is required and propery owners are notified. Wisconsin statutes also provide an opportunity for property owners within 100' of a proposed rezoning to file a protest petition. A valid protest petition then requires a favorable vote of 3/4 of alderman present for the meeting to approve the rezoning.

    2) Does the municipality have a landscape ordinance? In my muncipality, there is a landscaping buffer required between residential and commercial uses, which typically would require a screening fence as well.

    3) Does the development require a conditional use permit and approval from the Plan Commission? If so, find out if there is a public hearing and attend the meeting and voice your concerns to the Commission or any other meeting that would review the development plans. There may be an opportunity to have the Plan Commission (or other approving body) to require additional screening and/or redesign of the plan.

    4) Contact your alderman or town/village supervisior and voice your opinion...ask questions on the approval process, required hearings, etc.

    5) Contact your planning department as Jaxspra suggested.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I see that the City of Webster Planning Board Design Guidelines (PDF file) are available online.

    Take a look at these. They should provide you with another good starting point for your discussion with City officials about this project.
    All these years the people said heís actiní like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    It sounds likely that you will have more luck stopping the retention pond than the retail structure.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    It sounds likely that you will have more luck stopping the retention pond than the retail structure.
    I would just a soon have the retention pond as the run off from the parking.

    We currently live adjacent to a medical complex. 5 stories I think.
    Hardly bother me at all. They are at work while I am gone and gone while I am there. The parking lot lights were an issue. They were required to have a certain number. One of which was over my drive. I finally asked if they could do something about it. They just came and shut it off. It is there as required but not shining on me.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  7. #7
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    planning board is pro-developer

    Thank you for your replies.

    We went to first planning board review of application, and requested 200 foot buffer as required between residential zone and commercial zone. We also requested berm and trees.

    At second meeting, developer presented plans with 75-foot buffer, no berm, and a few 6-foot trees. We protested to planning board that we are a residential "Use" regardless of multifamily zoning, and therefore should have equal protection as every other single family residence in our town. They basically said, "ooh, sorry, you're zoned multifamily, the developer is legally allowed to do the 75-feet."

    How can I use the planning board requirements of "good aesthetics, pleasing landscaping etc." to pressure them into pressuring the developer to do better?

    Thanks!

    Quote Originally posted by Jaxspra
    I suggest talking to the Planning Staff and/or alderman/city council representative. While there may not be an ordinance that will stop the development, you may want to make sure you get the best development possible. Make sure that you are involved from the start, many times it won't take a law/ordinace, it will just take you talking with the developer and/or staff and expressing your concerns, you may end up with landscaping/berms things that you would like to see.
    Our community requires buffers between commercial developments and residential USES, not zoning. If there is an existing residential structure and a commercial development is proposed on an adjacent property, Staff will make a recommendation for the required greenspace, regardless of the zoning.

  8. #8
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    retention pond

    I would appreciate any input you have about retention ponds. This one is 160 feet by 160 feet across and 10 feet deep, immediately adjacent to my property line, without any berm, fence or other barrier, in a neighborhood with more than 90 young children.

    When I mentioned the Board's authority to impose restrictions which protect public safety (berm, fence etc.), the chairman said, "oh the pond is not an issue. People live by lakes all the time and don't fall in and drown. We just hope people watch their children!"

    I think it's a disaster waiting to happen. Your assistance with data about pond dangers or accepted design standards for creating barriers between residential and commercial uses would be appreciated.

    Ellen
    When I quest
    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    It sounds likely that you will have more luck stopping the retention pond than the retail structure.

  9. #9
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    parking runoff

    I am quite interested in the runoff from the parking. How do I figure out if the developer is accurately taking this into consideration?

    I would love a medical complex by comparison to what I'll be getting: A 14,000 sf drug store with drive-thru, a 23000 sf retail strip building, a 2800 sf drive thru restaurant, a 5000 sf sit-down restaurant and a 2700 sf bank (on 9.8 acres) with 351 parking spaces.

    Your comments are appreciated.

    Quote Originally posted by Queen B
    I would just a soon have the retention pond as the run off from the parking.

    We currently live adjacent to a medical complex. 5 stories I think.
    Hardly bother me at all. They are at work while I am gone and gone while I am there. The parking lot lights were an issue. They were required to have a certain number. One of which was over my drive. I finally asked if they could do something about it. They just came and shut it off. It is there as required but not shining on me.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    I am quite interested in the runoff from the parking. How do I figure out if the developer is accurately taking this into consideration?
    The retention pond is supposed comensate for the additional flow from the parking lots. There are a bunch of complicated engineering equations to size the pond and outlet. These calculations should be approved by your city before permits are issued.

    Ask if stormwater runoff calculations were provided and if they were reviewed by a qualified engineer. Some places assume the calculations are in order because no one has a clue how check them.

  11. #11
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    retention pond

    In this situation, they are re-routing a creek which currently runs east-west lengthwise through the center of a rectangular parcel. They are relocating the creek to run east-west at the southern end of the property and to accumulate in the retention pond in the southwest corner.

    Our concern is that this creek runs through our residential neighborhood before going to the commercial parcel. Many homes and yards in the neighborhood are routinely flooded.

    The creek through our neighborhood was also re-routed prior to construction of the neighborhood, by the same engineering firm and property owner which are now proposing this water solution for the retail plaza.

    Needless to say, we are concerned that their proposed solution might actually make our problem worse.

    Any thoughts on how to legally challenge their data before the Planning Board gives them the rubber stamp?

    Also, have you ever heard of a Town authority requiring a builder to put up a bond of money to have in place the water system doesn't work and causes more problems for us?

    Thanks.

    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon
    The retention pond is supposed comensate for the additional flow from the parking lots. There are a bunch of complicated engineering equations to size the pond and outlet. These calculations should be approved by your city before permits are issued.

    Ask if stormwater runoff calculations were provided and if they were reviewed by a qualified engineer. Some places assume the calculations are in order because no one has a clue how check them.

  12. #12
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    The retention/detention area should contain all runoff from the parking area until it can be slowly entered into the existing watershed. If engineering was done correctly on the calculation of surface flow from stormwater on the parking lot, there should be no surface water run off from the parking lot. Another concern you should have is the microclimate from such a large off-street parking space. Are there interior islands with plantings to break up the asphalt? Hundreds of square feet of asphalt will raise the temperature of the area besides being an eyesore.....

    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    I am quite interested in the runoff from the parking. How do I figure out if the developer is accurately taking this into consideration?

    I would love a medical complex by comparison to what I'll be getting: A 14,000 sf drug store with drive-thru, a 23000 sf retail strip building, a 2800 sf drive thru restaurant, a 5000 sf sit-down restaurant and a 2700 sf bank (on 9.8 acres) with 351 parking spaces.

    Your comments are appreciated.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian brian_w's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    I would appreciate any input you have about retention ponds. This one is 160 feet by 160 feet across and 10 feet deep, immediately adjacent to my property line, without any berm, fence or other barrier, in a neighborhood with more than 90 young children.

    When I mentioned the Board's authority to impose restrictions which protect public safety (berm, fence etc.), the chairman said, "oh the pond is not an issue. People live by lakes all the time and don't fall in and drown. We just hope people watch their children!"

    I think it's a disaster waiting to happen. Your assistance with data about pond dangers or accepted design standards for creating barriers between residential and commercial uses would be appreciated.

    Ellen
    When I quest
    I'm not an engineer, but sometimes I believe ponds are constructed with a "safety shelf" which is basically an area around the perimter of the pond that may only be 3 or 4 feet deep. If someone, i.e. a child falls in this part of the pond, they may be able to touch bottom or be able to crawl back out without much problem. The downsides of these safety shelves as I understand it are that they are great places for weeds and cat tails to grow, hence creating great breeding areas for insects.

    Perhaps you could ask the planning department to have the developer provide a dry detention pond or consider underground stormwater storage?
    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.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    I don't mean to sound flippant, but if the pond is designed and built attractively it could actually be an amenity for you. People pay a premium for water views and to have ornamental ponds installed in their backyard. I'm a big fan of ponds for wildlife value and as a scenic feature. But yes, the kids should know how to swim. The development itself doesn't sound all that attractive. Your town's engineer should be reviewing the plans to check if the pond will take all that runoff. Stock the pond with fish and tadpoles and the insects wont be much of a problem.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  15. #15
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    Thanks to all for your replies.

    My biggest problem with this project is that our single family homes were built on land zoned as multifamily. The zoning requires 75 foot setback between multifamily and commercial.

    My argument is that our actual USE is single family residential, not multifamily, and that we should have the protection of a 200-foot setback that every other single family residence in our town would get.

    Do you have input on this question --- should the planning board work to uphold the intention of the zoning law (to separate single family homes from commercial by 200 foot setback)

    Should they live up to the requirements for the actual USE or the zoning?

    Thanks!

    I don't mean to sound flippant, but if the pond is designed and built attractively it could actually be an amenity for you. People pay a premium for water views and to have ornamental ponds installed in their backyard. I'm a big fan of ponds for wildlife value and as a scenic feature. But yes, the kids should know how to swim. The development itself doesn't sound all that attractive. Your town's engineer should be reviewing the plans to check if the pond will take all that runoff. Stock the pond with fish and tadpoles and the insects wont be much of a problem.[/QUOTE]

  16. #16
         
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    Thanks to all for your replies.

    My biggest problem with this project is that our single family homes were built on land zoned as multifamily. The zoning requires 75 foot setback between multifamily and commercial.

    My argument is that our actual USE is single family residential, not multifamily, and that we should have the protection of a 200-foot setback that every other single family residence in our town would get.

    Do you have input on this question --- should the planning board work to uphold the intention of the zoning law (to separate single family homes from commercial by 200 foot setback)

    Should they live up to the requirements for the actual USE or the zoning?

    Thanks!

    I don't mean to sound flippant, but if the pond is designed and built attractively it could actually be an amenity for you. People pay a premium for water views and to have ornamental ponds installed in their backyard. I'm a big fan of ponds for wildlife value and as a scenic feature. But yes, the kids should know how to swim. The development itself doesn't sound all that attractive. Your town's engineer should be reviewing the plans to check if the pond will take all that runoff. Stock the pond with fish and tadpoles and the insects wont be much of a problem.
    While I did state that our particular department would look at the use and request that the developer install the same size buffer that would be required between single-family and commercial, I do not believe it is a requirment that we could enforce, unless of course the PZ Commission agreed and then the City Council agreed through site plan review, even then I imagine the developer would have grounds to appeal the requirement.
    I really hate to say this, but it is not the responsiblity of the City to inform you of your zoning classification. When you built or purchased the home, you should have known what your property was zoned. If you (and the other homeowners) felt the zoning should be changed, you should have approached the city prior to application for development. So while I do understand and sympathize with your current dilema, I am not sure other than making sure you have a voice in getting the best commercial development next to you as possible, you are going to get the 200 foot buffer/greenspace.
    I do echo the thoughts of a pond next to you being an amenity. Many of our new developments have water features that serve a open space as well as detention. Again, I think your best course of action at this point is to make sure you are as much a part of the process as possible.

  17. #17
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ryeellen
    Thanks to all for your replies.
    Should they live up to the requirements for the actual USE or the zoning?
    Thanks!
    No, the use really does not matter. The zoning designation of the property is what sets the rules and guidelines, not the use. I am assuming that yours like other codes, allow the more restricted uses in the less restrictive zones, so one could build single family homes in a multi-family district but not vice versa. Was the zoning changed after you purchased your home? If not you purchased the problems you are having. If that is true this is another case where you should have talked to the Planning office before you agreed to purchase the home.

    I don't mean to sound harsh, but we planners get this a lot. People come to us for help when they failed to fully invesigate things like zoning before they buy. Please folks check with the Planning office before you buy. Don't trust your realtor (unless it's Queen B ) to tell you everything.
    ďAs soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fallĒ
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    I don't mean to sound harsh, but we planners get this a lot. People come to us for help when they failed to fully invesigate things like zoning before they buy. Please folks check with the Planning office before you buy. Don't trust your realtor (unless it's Queen B ) to tell you everything.
    You put that much more diplomatically than I would.

    I always tell people, if you love the view, you'd better own everything in sight. Change happens. Ignorance of your local zoning -especially the zoning of your own property - is just unconscionable to me.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    You put that much more diplomatically than I would.

    I always tell people, if you love the view, you'd better own everything in sight. Change happens. Ignorance of your local zoning -especially the zoning of your own property - is just unconscionable to me.
    I don't think I had any idea about what zoning existed in the neighborhood where I owned a house. Most folks don't know that much about it. You are right that if someone buys for the view, they better know they have some kind of "right" to it (there are sometimes rights concerning such things without owning everything in sight). But I think unconscionable is a bit strong and reflects the fact that, as a professional planner, you are just more aware of this than most folks.

  20. #20
         
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    I don't think I had any idea about what zoning existed in the neighborhood where I owned a house. Most folks don't know that much about it. You are right that if someone buys for the view, they better know they have some kind of "right" to it (there are sometimes rights concerning such things without owning everything in sight). But I think unconscionable is a bit strong and reflects the fact that, as a professional planner, you are just more aware of this than most folks.
    I think with the amount of development and all of the planning/zoning cases out there today, it should be common knowledge to check on the zoning of the property yuou are about to purchase. I also think that realtors should have some sort of background in zoning to, at a minimum, inform buyers what their property and adjacent properties are zoned. When I get a call from someone yelling that they didn't know the property next to them was commercial/industrial etc...I don't have a lot of sympathy. Your home is one of the most single important purchases you are going to make, I would assume you would research it as much as you would a car you are purchasing...do we all take the car salesmans advice?
    (MZ, I don't mean "you" as I am quoting your post, I mean people in general )

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jaxspra
    I think with the amount of development and all of the planning/zoning cases out there today, it should be common knowledge to check on the zoning of the property yuou are about to purchase. I also think that realtors should have some sort of background in zoning to, at a minimum, inform buyers what their property and adjacent properties are zoned. When I get a call from someone yelling that they didn't know the property next to them was commercial/industrial etc...I don't have a lot of sympathy. Your home is one of the most single important purchases you are going to make, I would assume you would research it as much as you would a car you are purchasing...do we all take the car salesmans advice?
    (MZ, I don't mean "you" as I am quoting your post, I mean people in general )
    Moderator note:
    I would love to promote awareness of this. However, as the lead moderator of this forum, I think it is important that professional planners not slam people who aren't professional planners for lacking knowledge that the pros take for granted. I am all for sharing that knowledge and informing people that if they bought into a poorly zoned or planned subdivision, the planning department a) doesn't have much recourse and b) doesn't have much sympathy. But "unconscionable" suggests that someone is morally defective for not knowing as much as you do (a professional planner) about the topic and not realizing how significant this is. That kind of language is highly likely to make citizen planners feel unwelcome here for failing to know as much as the professionals know -- which is directly contrary to the purpose of the forum. So I would appreciate it if the professionals be cognizant of the fact that non-professionals who post here a) don't know as much as you know and b) probably feel a little self-conscious already without anyone using language which sounds like a slam.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    There are many things people are not aware of when they buy their home that they should be, especially if itís your first home. How many things around your house did you find out AFTER you purchased it and thought, ďwish Iíd known that firstĒ? Ultimately itís the responsibility of the buyer to find these things out, but without experience, one doesnít even know what they should be looking for. A good realtor is a must.

    I personally donít understand why someone would buy a house without having it surveyed. Your home is more than likely the largest thing you will ever buy, donít you want to know where it is? But Iím a land surveyor, and these are the things I think about.

    Zoning is another thing you should be aware of. But if youíre not in a business that deals with zoning, this is a detail that will probably be missed. And even if its not, it is hard to grasp 75í setback vs. 200í setback until someone is trying to build next to you.

    ryeellen
    As a NON-planner, I think your argument of actual land usage is not that bad of an argument. But as the planners have mentioned here, itís probably a losing one.

    Have you approached the developer with any of your concerns? If you approach them nicely, they may be willing to make some changes to accommodate some of your concerns. (Probably wonít move their building back to 200í but they may revise the detention area)

    Good luck

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