Council makes changes to zoning text amendments for several districts

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 18, 2017

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FERNDALE — To fix what the city identified as some inconsistencies, the City Council unanimously approved text amendments for city zoning districts at its April 10 meeting.

The amendments fix language in the R-1 (single-family residential), R-3 (single/multiple-family residential), MXD-1 (mixed-use 1) and MXD-2 (mixed-use 2) zoning districts.

According to city documents, the R-1 district will increase the maximum density from nine units per acre to 12 units per acre. The R-3 district will allow single-family detached dwellings as a permitted use and decrease the lot width from a 40-foot maximum to a 33-foot minimum. The MXD-1 and MXD-2 districts will increase the maximum building height from 35 to 45 feet.

With the mixed-use districts, City Planner Justin Lyons said, the city found over time that people had a lot of interest in areas like Livernois and Hilton, but that a number of those developments found issues with the zoning ordinance, as did city staff.

“That really limited what could be done in some of those districts, so that’s why you see some of the vacancies and some of the old buildings that are still there without additions,” he said. “This height increase would allow for more walkable development.”

Lyons said that when a lot of projects were coming forth, they were hindered by the ordinance, which limited the walkable nature that the city was looking for at places like Hilton and Livernois.

“Allowing that height would allow for a little bit more vertical use, but also just higher-quality, ground-level retail, which I think is something that’s pretty key for those districts,” he said.

Going back to the R-3 district, Mayor Dave Coulter had a question regarding the decrease in minimum lot width.

“Explain to me how decreasing the minimum lot width from 40 feet to 33 feet assists in encouraging better development,” he said. “Sounds like a very skinny lot to me, but what kinds of units are we talking about here?”

“As the ordinance stands now, there’s currently a maximum,” Lyons said. “So this would create a 33-foot minimum. So it takes away that maximum aspect.”

Councilman Greg Pawlica added his own take, saying that on the east side of the city in his neighborhood, many of the lots are 35 feet wide.

“A house gets knocked down, you can’t do anything with that lot,” he said. “So you have a 35-foot lot that you can’t build because your restriction says 40 feet.”