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Thread: Setback question

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Setback question

    This is embarrassing to ask as I'm a planner with 10 years experience but I've never heard a good response to this question:

    Just because suburbs are car-dominant doesn't mean they need such large setbacks and wasted space. If every piece of info we have regarding taxable values shows denser development is better for local coffers why do cities require such wide ROWs, huge setbacks, single access parking lots for each business, etc?

    I'm not asking why suburbs don't build walkable neighborhoods but rather what specific purpose does requiring huge amounts of wasted space serve?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I'll just throw out ideas because there is no right answer.

    The fire dept. wants 50' streets.
    The market demands a front yard.
    20' is a normal setback because that's the length of your driveway - does not include sidewalk
    You need room to park cars because you don't want them parking on the street and no one actually uses their garage to store cars anymore.
    We all want to think our kids will be running around playing in the front yard while we do some gardening and talk to neighbors when in reality we're all sitting in the living room watching TV
    Some people actually enjoy mowing the lawn - sick bastards
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I would say that the answer is inertia. Yes, a fiscal impact analysis would show that wasteful, large-lot development does not represent the highest and best use for these parcels, but it's easier to leave legacy code in place than to undertake the excruciating work of revising the code to fit the current fiscal and social reality. Do you want to be the one to deal with those pitchforks? That's what I thought

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Kingmak's avatar
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    dvdneal is right. When it comes to setbacks, keep the typical 25' front, but make sure your code allows exceptions when it comes to rear accessed lots via alleys. My muni allows the front setback to adjust to ten feet it if it is rear accessed, PUD or not.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by paiste13 View post

    Just because suburbs are car-dominant doesn't mean they need such large setbacks and wasted space. If every piece of info we have regarding taxable values shows denser development is better for local coffers why do cities require such wide ROWs, huge setbacks, single access parking lots for each business, etc?

    I'm not asking why suburbs don't build walkable neighborhoods but rather what specific purpose does requiring huge amounts of wasted space serve?
    Some years ago now when rezoning a small town, it was pointed out to me my short setbacks wouldn't work because where would people park their cars?

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    The 'large' setbacks is generally just a symptom of inertia, in my experience, as MacheteJames says.

    And also a seemingly unshakable holdover from the English country estate aesthetic we were saddled with by Olmsted, et al in the 19th century.

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Some years ago now when rezoning a small town, it was pointed out to me my short setbacks wouldn't work because where would people park their cars?
    That's funny. If your proposed setbacks were just 'minimums', then what's stopping people from building further back.

    I find it frustrating that some people think too simply sometimes.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Consumer demand... If suburbs were these terrible places that no wanted to live then no one would except those that could afford to do so. You have heard of curb appeal. School taught you to want dense and walkable but from I have seen some want to live that way but most want to drive and visit it and go back to the large lot subdivision and stay behind their 6 ft patio walls until they are ready to venture out again.

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