Decatur City Commission’s Plate Full of Zoning and Annexation for Tonight’s Meeting

I hope the Decatur City Commission members eat Wheaties before tonight’s meeting.  (Sorry, the organic equivalent to Wheaties!)

Tonight, the commission holds another work session at 6:30p regarding a potential wide-scale annexation and then will take up approving/denying the zoning changes recommended by the Zoning Task Force to a pile of things such as parking, accessory dwellings, urban gardening, etc etc.  Aren’t you tired just reading about this?

If not, and you love a good Powerpoint presentation with maps and setback mockups, I suggest you click HERE and check out this rather succinct wrap up of the zoning changes.

As for annexation, no new news yet, but the agenda does reference a “report” that I’ve asked about and whether it’s been updated since the last meeting.   The commission is still scheduled to vote on a potential annexation on December 17th, while the school board will vote on their recommendation next Tuesday, December 11th.

If that wasn’t enough, the commission is also scheduled to vote on budgeting the temporary move of the Police Department (to 250 East Ponce – you can read more about that HERE) and Municipal Court (to the Callaway building) while renovations are made to the Beacon Hill complex.    If approved, Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon’s letter states a move-in date to these temporary locations of late January/early February.

Rendering above showing “30’ minimum setback between facing commercial and residential properties, measured from the residential property line” courtesy of the ZTF presentation

8 thoughts on “Decatur City Commission’s Plate Full of Zoning and Annexation for Tonight’s Meeting”

  1. When I see a meeting so loaded up with contentious issues and during December, I always wonder what the rush is. What is being decided without proper notification? What is being passed under the table?
    But I am sure nothing nefarious could be coming out of Decatur the Good? Could it?

  2. I don’t think the zoning changes have been rushed, but compared to the time spent on public comments/polls for the zoning changes, the annexation seems quick.

    1. Process of developing the recommendations may have been lengthy, but I believe the final versions of the recommendations were not available to the public until inclusion in the materials packet for the Planning Commission meeting of November 13. And the PC members’ revisions were not available until after the PC meeting of November 27 – less than a week before the City Commission meeting. I wish the CC had given the public – and themselves – a little more time to think about the changes.

  3. I can’t make it tonight, here’s my input on the zoning changes related to ADUs:

    From the 2010 Strategic Plan:

    More than any other topic in Session Two, the discussions on housing touched on the concern that, as Decatur becomes more affluent, it will lose its ethnic, income, and age group diversity. Not surprisingly, groups called
    for greater provision of affordable housing and housing that is appropriate
    for an aging population.

    But when the discussions turned from the general to the particular, there
    was a recognition that the most likely ways of ensuring a diversity of housing options – through greater density and more mixed-income and rental housing – would be politically challenging. One recommendation offered by several groups: Allowing single-family houses to add garage apartments and accessory dwellings so Decatur could be known “as a place where we let you bring your family to live with you.” The same group added, though, “people are worried about too many cars”.


    Now to the Zoning Task Force results. The summary statement –


    GOAL: Allow accessory dwellings to provide opportunities to age in place
    and affordable housing within residential neighborhoods.
    – Remove current incentive for “rogue dwellings” by making legal
    dwellings more reasonable to develop
    – Minimize visual impact
    – Maximize privacy
    – Allow for homeowner flexibility”


    In other words, make it easier for property owners to develop ADUs.

    And how do they propose to achieve this? By adding in new regulations:

    – requiring off street parking,
    – restrictions on building height,
    – increasing the setbacks.

    Call me a Right Wing Nut Job, but I don’t think adding new regulations makes it easier to develop ADUs. The spirit of the Strategic Plan is violated by these proposed zoning changes.

    I would ask our city commissioners to reject the zoning changes related to ADU’s. Let’s not backward steps towards our strategic plan.

    1. A few clarifications, TeeRuss:

      1) The recommendations do not recommend an increase in off-street parking. Our present zoning requires one off-street space per lot. Adding an ADU would not require any additional space.

      2) ADUs are currently limited to 25′ in height. The recommendations do not change this number.

      3) The recommendations do not increase setbacks for ADUs. They keep them the same for 2-story ADUs and reduce them for 1-story ADUs.

      Beyond this, ADU regs are recommended to be relaxed such that:

      1) The previous limit of 600 sq. ft. be raised to 800 sq. ft.

      2) They can be built as part of a home in addition to as a separate building.

      1. Thanks for the clarifications, but I’m not seeing some of those confirmed in the material that’s online.

        For the off-street parking, that’s a restriction in that it adds an additional requirement for homes that don’t already have off street parking. My house is in this situation – no driveway. We park on dirt in the back yard off of an alley. In order to develop an ADU I would now have to add a parking space, I think. That’s an additional restriction and discourages my options.

        I was referring to the additional details around heights – overall height remains the same, but you have restrictions on wall heights depending on roof types which restricts design options and potentially floorspace. Again, not helping.

        I’m looking for more detail around the setbacks. I think the current rear setback is 5′, and this would increase it to 10′. If so, not helping.

        Hopefully you get my point. I should have you over sometime to check out my lot – it’s a prime example of an ADU candidate, but it would be negatively impacted by some of the new zoning ordinances.

        1. The new regulations (regarding parking, setbacks,etc.) may be true TreeRuss, but under the old code you CANNOT have an ADU AT ALL unless you live on a very large lot which 98% of Decaturites do not have.

          The new code at least allows you to have one if you meet certain standards. So, I don’t get why you are upset?

          1. Well, first of all I’m not upset. You are right, there are some things in the proposed changes that make it easier to build an ADU. But there are some that make it harder, and that violates the spirit of the strategic plan recommendation. All in all, I would think that streamlining and reducing regulation would spur ADU development, and that’s not exactly what the proposed changes are doing.

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