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Thread: Any ideas on how to allow for increased accessory use heights?

  1. #1
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    Any ideas on how to allow for increased accessory use heights?

    Greetings all!

    I have a dilemma and would appreciate thoughts on the following:

    Background: We are considering an increase in accessory use heights in the Single-Family zoning distirct. Right now, accessory use heights (garages, pools houses, etc) are limited to 15 feet maximum. This has been the height limit since 1965 and the code does not provide a mechanism to obtain a variance from this max limit.

    We have a signficant # of historic homes here, however, some taller than 40 feet. The argument has been made that accessory uses should be allowed to be built to a height consistant with the height of the primary structure. While this might be reasonable, the general sentiment is that those seeking a height increase should obtain "permission" to do so, either via the Zoning Board or Council.

    The issue I've run into is this: I only have 2 means of granting permission for increased heights: 1) A variance; or 2) a "Special Use Permit". Neither of these options quite "fit the bill":

    1) A variance would require, among other criteria, that the applicant demonstrate there is a "hardship" and that this hardship is not "self-imposed". It would be an extremely rare case where an applicant could show that an additional 8 feet of height is needed for an accessory structure due to a "harship" as, overwhelmingly, requests for additional accessory structure height will most likely be for "aesthetic" reasons, additional storage space and maybe an upper level room for an office. These reasons probably won't pass the "hardship" test we rigorously apply.

    2) A "special use permit" runs with the property owner, not with the land. Thus, if the house is ever sold, I would be in the position of requiring the accessory structure to be removed (or the new owner applying for a SUP). That's absurd so that won't work either.

    So my question is, how do other municipalities deal with this? We could change the ordinance to allow height increases outright, but we're a "college town" and there are concerns that taller accessory heights will result in accessory dwellings (which are presently prohibited). In short, we don't want to allow increased heights "outright" to say, "20 feet" or "X percentage of the height of the primary structure."

    Also, we don't presently have an "architectural review board" so that won't work either.

    One option might be to create a whole new category to facilitate review of these structures. Anybody have something like this? If so, what do you call it?

    Any other ideas?

    if so, please feel free to comment and provide links to possible ordinance options. I'd love to see 'em!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I think the simple answer is the create a use standard that allows X% of principal building height with Zoning Board review. Just write that into the use standard. 15-ft is administrative, >15-ft is commission review. In both cases a site plan is probably required. With commission review, it would be a narrative and site plan submittal.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3
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    Interesting idea and I think I see where you are going. Question: How does the zoning board obtain this review authority? Is there a section in your ordinance which grants this to them?
    Last edited by I Rockaway; 11 Feb 2013 at 3:21 PM.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Mine is placed under the Board of Zoning Appeals section. It basically says they get to allow exceptions, requires a public hearing, and nothing more than 30% can be considered. It also lists what exceptions can be made (setbacks, height, etc.)
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  5. #5
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    DVDNeal

    Our ZBA is granted similar authority but accessory height variances are not on their "menu" of variances they can grant. I'd add it, but that gets me back to my problem: Variances require a proven "hardship."

    Does your ordinance distinguish between "variances" and "exceptions" or are they one in the same?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Rockaway,

    You can write anything you want. Make it a conditional/special accessory use and allow Planning and Zoning to review it and avoid the rigor of the ZBA. It's not a hardship request, it's a special exception with performance standards.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian estromberg's avatar
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    When I worked in the zoning department in Winnebago County, our accessory uses were limited to the height of the primary structure or 35 ft, whichever was lower. It worked well. 15' seems really low.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    my code does have a difference for exception and variance. Variance must follow the hardship rules, exceptions in my book just need grounds.

    Like Boiker said, write what you need and pick who the deciding body is.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the advice everyone! I think we've put together a possible option based on your input. I will post the results when Council (possibly) passes this ordinance in a few weeks.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    State laws may limit this, but why not a conditional use that runs with the land and not the owner?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Increased height for accessory structures

    Our Code limits height for accessory structures to 15 feet, too. We allow an increase up to 20 feet as part of an administrative variance. We have specific criteria that must be met as follows (note that they basically follow the theme of is the proposal consistent with the character of the area and are you going to screw with adjacent property owners):
    1. The proposed development of the land will be in harmony with the scale, bulk, coverage, density, and character of adjacent properties in which it is located.

    2. The proposed development will not hinder or discourage the appropriate development and use of adjacent land and buildings or significantly impair the value thereof.

    3. The proposed development will not adversely affect the health or safety or persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the proposed use.

    4. The proposed development is designed to minimize traffic congestion.

    5. The proposed development is consistent with the community character of the immediate vicinity of the parcel proposed for development.

    6. The design of the proposed development minimizes adverse effects, including visual, acoustic and olfactory and hours of operation impacts, on adjacent properties.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

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