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Thread: Regulating Residential Compatibility

  1. #1

    Regulating Residential Compatibility

    I am looking for information on how to regulate residential compatibility in infill situations. Also helpful would be examples of other jurisdictions that have successfully and creatively regulated compatibility. Some specific questions I have include:

    1. How can compatibility standards be applied to a development when the architecture is not determined until the house is ready to be built?
    2. How can compatibility standards be restrictive without preventing creative design?
    3. What if the existing development is not necessarily desirable and you do not want to repeat that same pattern of development?

    Any insight on the topic of infill and compatibility would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Feb 2002
    Athens, Georgia
    When we review applications for compatibility for new construction in our historic districts we look at four issues
    1. Siting and Orientation of the structure: it should be setback from the street the same amount as the other houses and it should face the front like the other houses.
    2. Scale and Proportion: this is the height, mass, directional expression of the design
    3. Facade Openings and Articulation: this is the rhythm of the facade which can have a major impact on issue 2.
    4. Continuity: this is where it gets down to the materials, details like roof pitch, and style features.

    Of course if you don't like what you've already got, then building something compatible with it isn't the right way to go. But this has worked for us and doesn't seem to eliminate the "creative process" for the architect.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the reply. I should clarify that I am particularly interested in how to handle compatibility in a suburban residential setting and without historic district designation.... for example, an infill development of 10 units surrounded by existing residential development.

  4. #4
    Member Mary's avatar
    Aug 2001
    If it's not in a designated district it will probably be a bit more of a challenge. But you might try controls though an overlay district in the zoning ordinance. If you are trying for compatibility you might look at the design standards for historic districts. Issues become things like scale so that it doesn't tower over existing buildings, and Materials so you don't have a building of glass next to old brick buildings. Usually if you can get the buildings about the same height with similary pitched roofs and similar amounts of windows and window height it seams that they blend reasonably well. Although that is just personal opinion. And I've seen at least one case in a commercial area where the architect (probably wanting to be remembered forever) had planned so many odd additions to the building that it couldn't have blended in much of anywhere. The good news was that the client hated it as much as the historic preservation commission so it didn't go through.

    There are ways to do this with infill for example your 10 units on one infill lot might break up the front so that if it's two stories the end of the first story would be clear and would match the height of the start of nearby single story roofs. You would also probably want to build deep rather than wide so that the front more closely matched the neighbors with a single door to the street.

    Good luck

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