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Land use: general Multi-family design standards


We are going to open up multi-family to all districts in the coming months, mainly to pave the way for development along our lakes. The plan is to move multi-family to a "permitted with standards and conditions" category. Do you have any guidelines you can float my way, maybe some of the more interesting "I wish I'd thought of that" stuff? We have our basic lot sizes and setbacks taken care of, but I'm sure I'm forgetting something. I'm looking for more info on the following as well:

Do you require community refuse sites (dumpster areas)? If so, what triggers the requirement, and what design guidelines do you have on these structures?

Do you require "nuisance setbacks" for items like mechanical units, pools, play areas, etc.? Any screening for mechanical units?

What parking standards do you require? We currently have 2 spots for every unit, which seems to be standard.

Thanks for any input!

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
  • Yes requiring trash bins and reviewing their location and asking for pick up schedule - once a week for a lot of units may not be enough
  • If it's a larger complex, say 10 units or more, there should be common spaces like a playground or at least a small green with benches
  • If it's an allowable use where there's a lot of single family or 2 family homes, then design standards to ensure the scale blends into the environs would be good
  • If the project is on a bus line or other mass transit, you might want to require a bus stop area
  • parking should be 2 per unit and there should be a visitor lot if there is no on street parking along the development
  • if the development is in or at the edge of a business district, you may want to either require or encourage with incentives commercial uses on the ground floor


Jeeze. Two parking spaces per unit is huge overkill. That's just asking for all of your multis to be a bland box, sitting in the middle of a sea of parking, set back 100 feet from the street.

You should probably include some requirements for FUNCTIONAL (i.e. not just an afterthought crammed in a corner) bicycle parking, and a pathway/sidewalk connection from the main door to the fronting street.

Don't go overboard on amenity/common space requirements, or maybe don't even require any at all. Most of the jurisdictions in my area require a certain square footage per unit, and it scales up with unit size (e.g. 200 SF of amenity per bachelor, and 600 SF per 2-bedroom). I find these requirements super frustrating (especially the scaling, which discourages much-needed larger units). The idea in theory of requiring amenity space is to provide for the outdoor space that you lose when you don't have a yard, but the reality is that amenity space becomes this weird, underdeveloped no-man's land. It ends up being a crappy picnic table, sitting in a weedy field, at some back corner of the property where no one ever goes. If good amenity space happens, it's not because government requires it, it's because the developer thinks it's a perk for residents and invests appropriately in it to actually make it useful.