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Thread: Condominiums in rural areas

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
    Jul 2003
    Cyburbias Brewpub, best seat in the haus!

    Condominiums in rural areas

    Condominiums in rural areas have popped up in surrounding rural counties to the one in which I work. As of yet, they have not been proposed, but we believe it is only a matter of time. So I am on an information search.

    Has anyone had any experience with condominiums in rural areas?

    How were water issues handled?

    What type of wastewater and septic system management issues occurred?

    What types of densities per acre were proposed?

    How many total units were allowed?

    were these units on waterfront sites?

    Does anyone have access to or electronic copies or web sites to direct me to zoning or subdivision code for condo units in rural areas?

    Any information or pointers would be appreciated.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  2. #2
    Jun 2009
    Quincy CA

    Condominiums in rural areas

    We had half a dozen condominium projects in my county during my tenure. I got to work on all of them. First because the senior folks would hand down the projects with which they did not want to deal to the junior folks; and then because I was the “expert”.

    The condominium projects we had were not the typical urban many units in one building condominiums. One of the projects was a conversion of an existing four unit apartment building. Another was conversion of a resort to residential condominiums. The others were new construction, in single or duplex units.

    Being in California, my county may not qualify as rural from the perspective of others. We have had about 16,000 to 22,000 persons in about 2,600 square miles, most of them living in about 3% of that area, with most of the rest of the area being federal ownership, timber company holdings, and agricultural lands.

    I think much will depend on your regulatory organization.

    In California, zoning and development standards need to be consistent with the general plan, so the general plan will set standards (the specificity of which will vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) that will then be augmented in zoning, development and subdivision regulations. We treated condominiums much as just another type of subdivision, with additional paperwork.

    One key factor was that our regulations were already set up to provide great flexibility in lot/unit-of-ownership (including condominium) sizes so long as the overall density identified in the general plan were maintained. For examples: if someone had ten acres with the seven dwelling unit per acre density, they could propose seventy 1/7th acre lots (typical) or one 70 unit apartment building (or mobile home park), or anything in between; or if someone had 100 acres with the ten acres per dwelling unit density, they could propose ten 10 acre lots (typical) or one 10 unit apartment building (or mobile home park), or anything in between. If they wanted to propose condominium rather than lot ownership, that was an option. [Zero, or near-zero lot line projects were far more common than actual condominium projects. The real estate agents told me those were easier to sell than actual condominiums.]

    The general plan had development standards tied to each density – the greater the density, the greater the development standards. The 7 units per acre density had standards for community water, community sewage disposal, fire protection (with further associated water standards), paved roads, power, and open space. The 1 unit per ten acre density had standards for water storage for fire protection, sewage disposal by individual septic system (as a minimum), and graveled roads. These standards did not change whether the density were spread over the project site or concentrated in one portion of the project. [Micro-density standards had been a contentious matter when the general plan was set up, and were not adopted.]

    So, the maximum potential densities were set by the general plan, as was the required infrastructure. Lot/unit-of-ownership size, building height, parking, and yard (set-back) standards were set by zoning regulations. General plan requirements could not be modified. Other standards could -- the obvious modification being lot/unit-of-ownership size. The tools for those modifications were in place, with standards of their own that were not hard to meet.

    Five of the projects were in 7 units per acre density areas, one was in a one acre per unit density area. Three were on waterfront (reservoir) properties. Those included recreational amenities. The largest of these was about a dozen units. [Some of our zero / near-zero lot line projects would run about a hundred units.]

    The greatest problems we had with condominium and zero / near-zero lot line projects were in relation to the building codes. The details varied a bit over the years and with who was administering the building codes (we went through ten building officials/interim building officials in twenty-eight years). The short version is that if the ownership line – be it condominium or lot -- were too near the building, there could be no openings. Not a problem along a common wall, but, somewhere, you want the opportunity for doors and windows.

    In my experience, the building code folks do not get along well with planners and tend to not volunteer information. I was fortunate in having worked in the building trade for much of a decade and having some idea of the necessary questions to ask – and knew that the answers would not always be what I thought they ought to be, so I asked – a lot. Talk to your building code people. If you have a good working relationship, so much the better.

    The other thing that came up was accessibility standards, kicking in with any building of more than two units, even if separated by ownership lines. One four-plex project quickly became a duplex project.

    One of the projects was a conversion of an existing four unit apartment building. Another, one of the lake (reservoir) front projects, was conversion of a resort to residential condominiums. The others were new construction, in single or duplex units – not the many units in one building typical of urban condominium projects.
    The former resort was reverted to acreage and resumed operation as a resort. One-third of one of the single unit new construction projects was re-done into standard lots.

    We did have one more project where the buildings were designed to meet the occupancy separation standards that would apply if they were later divided into condominiums. The developer did not pursue that, but took advantage of some of our other flexibility/multiple use/interchangeable use standards to use those units as a motel – and later build more on the same principle.

    Of course, we also got to enjoy the use of the California Environmental Quality Act in processing the projects.

    As I said, I think much depends on your regulatory organization. What I had was rigid in general plan standards -- including density, development standards, and policies tied to environmental concerns and review – meet those or the project goes nowhere -- and very flexible beyond that. So my experience might be worthless for you. But, since you had not received a response in a month, I figured I would give you something.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
    Aug 2008
    Comer, GA
    I know six families who share approx 260 acres in common, with approx 10 acres apiece as "units" who use the condominium legal definition as a structure for ownership etc.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
    Jan 2008
    Tallahassee, FL
    You can deal with them (unless there is an issue with enabling law) as multifamily. Condo is just a form of ownership. In Florida there are a lot of hoops to jump through with a condo, but they all are related to the ownership and not planning/landuse/zoning.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
    Jan 2009
    Remote command post at local bar
    I agree with Richi, we would treat them as multi-family, ownership is not material. Our city area is large enough to be a county, and we have rural areas. Although we haven't had this problem (and don't expect it), we would require a development plan that provides a mini village to support the condos (mixed-use stores, retail, etc.). Also we would require the developer to tie into our water and waste water system. They would be able to establish their own well (to our standards) that we could tie into, but hte waste would be an issue. We don't have plants that serve the rural area - it would cost the developer too much to build them wher we want them and run the infrastructure. We will in some cases allow package plants, but we try to avoid that. Another point we would want are two paved roads to provide routes of access in emergency.
    Good luck

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