Infill Housing

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Alice West Fleet Elementary Library
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Jim Gill obtained a report from the Zoning Ordnance Review Committee to the County Board on recommended changes to the ordnances that apply to infill housing.  "However this comes out, it will affect our neighborhood.  I am not sure what is best for Arlington Heights," wrote Jim.

Zoning Board of Review Commission July 26, 1999

July 26, 1999

Treat all sites equally, eliminating the advantages of downsloping lots as well as the disadvantages of upward sloping lots.

Guidance from Board:

35 feet is uniform standard measurement for area jurisdictions. However, where the measurement is taken differs greatly. [See Appendix I]. One of the main issues, that of existing grade, is handled differently depending on where measurements are taken.

1. Keep the maximum allowed height of 35 feet

2. Change the method of measurement:

OPTION 2A. Measure from the perimeter of the site using language similar to that found within RA districts. [See Appendix II]

OPTION 2B. Measure from the perimeter of the main building at existing or approved grade. OPTION 2C. Measure from the front setback line at the side lot lines. NOTE: For additions to existing houses, it is assumed that the same (new) method of measurement would be used.

Additions should be using the same method as for totally new construction. (Variance can always be requested for hardship cases.)

Provide open space, both in front yards (as seen from street) and back yards (as seen from neighboring homes); to help ensure privacy; to prevent overcrowding


Guidance from Board: Discussion/Issues: Footprints of existing and new houses range from 700 sq. ft. to 3000 sq. ft. Average footprints have been going up each decade: Perception of what is the acceptable building envelope differs between developer and neighbor (what is monster house to one is just the market to another)

1. Revise description of coverage [see Appendix III] and add definition for coverage.

2. Total coverage should continue to include building footprint, parking areas and driveways. To the extent possible, patios and interior walkways should not be counted. 3. Reduce the overall coverage allowed, preferably on a sliding scale, possibly dividing out coverage for a separate maximum for the buildings.

R-5 5000 SF
R-6 6000 SF
R-8 8000 SF
R-10 10,000 SF
R-20 20,000 SF

50% (2500 SF)
50% (3000 SF)
50% (4000 SF)
45% (4500 SF)
35% (7000 SF)

32% (1600 SF)
35% (2100 SF)
40% (3200 SF)
35% (3500 SF)
25% (5000 SF)

40% (2000 SF)
40% (2400 SF)
35% (2800 SF)
35% (3500 SF)
25% (5000 SF)

45% (2250 SF)
Same (2700 SF)
Same (3600 SF)
Same (4500 SF)
Same (9000 SF)

40% (2000 SF)
Same (2400 SF)
Same (3200 SF)
Same (4000 SF)
Same (8000 SF)

4. Create language that prevents front yards from becoming paved over. Such language would consist of setting a maximum percentage of coverage allowed within the front yard.

OPTION 4A. On a sliding scale, set a maximum coverage for driveways (30% in R5/6, for example) and a maximum for semicircular driveways (50%).

OPTION 4B. Set a separate percentage of coverage in the front yard (still within the overall total coverage). One suggestion would be to mirror overall coverage on the site.


Guidance from Board: Discussion/Issues: Recommendations:

1. Eliminate minimum average lot width altogether, including "odd shaped lot" (See Appendix VI for existing definitions)

2. Use simple formula of WIDTH= LOT AREA DIVIDED BY DEPTH

NOTE: The existing ordinance contains language regarding oversize lots. In order to retain pipestem lots, staff has suggested the existing language regarding lot width calculations for oversize lots would need to be retained (or some similar language would need to be developed.)

"... Where an odd-shaped lot exceeds the required area for its particular district, the width of such lot may be computed within the boundary of that portion of the lot, which meets the minimum area requirements. In this case, the front and rear boundary lines substituted for the front and rear lot lines must be parallel to the front and rear lot lines, respectively."

3. Include a requirement that the lot width requirement for that zoning district must be met at the midpoint of the lot depth.

This would ensure that the lot width requirement of the ordinance is actually met.

Guidance from Board: Recommendations:
The Committee has formulated ten recommendations, designed to be used together, all of which center around creation of a new section of the Zoning Ordinance for pipestem lots. The recommendations listed below are designed to be used together in this proposed new code.

1. Create a new, separate section of the Zoning Code governing the regulation of pipestem lots in single family residential (R) districts.

The creation of such a section to detail all requirements for the creation of and building on pipestem lots would be a practical improvement for all parties.

2. In the preamble to this section, it should be noted that a pipestem is designed to provide an optional form of development. 3. Minimum Frontage:

OPTION 3A. The current standard requirement of 40 feet access for a pipestem property should be maintained.

Over the years this standard has changed several times, going from 10 ft. in 1938 to 20 ft. in 1971 to the current 40 ft. in 1979. In order to encourage building in the stem, we believe no less than 40 ft. would be needed. In addition, keeping the frontage as it now exists might promote shared driveways.

OPTION 3B. Sliding scale of frontage

The sliding scale would follow the pattern already established by the 40ft. width, which is 80% of the frontage requirement in the smallest zoning district (R-5). By continuing with an 80% frontage requirement for all zoning districts, pipestem frontages would not be as "out of scale" as they now appear to be in larger zoning districts. In addition, houses built in the stem would be more in scale with surrounding homes in the same zoning district.

Zoning District Minimum Frontage Proposed Pipestem Lot Frontage (80%)
R-5                     50 ft.                             40 ft.
R-6                     60 ft.                             48 ft
R-8                     70 ft.                             56 ft.
R-10                   80 ft.                             64 ft.
R-20                 100 ft.                             80 ft.

4. Minimum Lot Size: Keep current system of calculation.

Although it had formerly been suggested that the area in the stem of a pipestem lot be excluded from the calculation of minimum lot size, that option is no longer being recommended. Such an exclusion would preclude the building of houses in a stem, something that can be desirable, especially in smaller single family zones (R-5 and R-6), particularly in order for such new construction to fit in with existing setbacks of other houses on a given block.

5. Restrict the driveway maximum to 12 feet in width in the stem portion of a lot. 6. Driveways that are shared between two pipestem lots should be a maximum of 15 feet in width and driveways shared between 3 or more lots would have a maximum of 20 ft. 7. Setbacks for main building built in the "backyard":

We propose that the setbacks used for determining the buildable area of a pipestem lot be changed. These changes respond to several issues raised by citizens concerning pipestems in general, including: houses built too close to neighboring houses, including the home in front of a pipestem lot and houses not conforming to prevailing neighborhood front setbacks.

Currently, what is the rear lot line of the existing house becomes a side yard line for a pipestem lot when the land is subdivided. Since it is treated as a side lot line, a new home in the rear lot could be as close as 8 feet to rear lot line of the existing home. Such small side yards lead to homes that are too close to older homes and make the new houses appear to loom over the older home.

OPTION 7A. An aggregate 40 foot setback at the side lot lines with a minimum of 15 feet on either side; a 25 ft. rear yard setback; and a 10 ft. setback from the side property line segment which serves as the rear lot line of any abutting lot.

OPTION 7B. 20 foot setback from both side lot lines and a 25 foot setback from any segment of a side lot line serving as the rear lot line of an abutting lot

This option may make building in the rear of a lot difficult in R5 and R6 districts (or render 10 feet wide homes) but such setbacks are doable in the larger zoning districts.

OPTION 7C. Dimensions of the distance between the property lines and the main building in a pipestem lot would be set by a sliding scale in each of the five single family zoning districts. 8. Setback requirements for main buildings when built in the stem: such setbacks would follow the usual setback regulations for the single family zoning district in which the pipestem lot exists.

In smaller districts this would make building in the stem a much more attractive option, thus preserving backyard space in a smaller zoning district, and conforming to the regular street setbacks in the neighborhood.

9. Landscaping:

Landscaping has been long utilized as a buffer between commercial and residential properties. Requiring such buffering in pipestem lots would not only help to shield the new development but it would assist the surrounding neighbors in retaining at least a portion of the tree canopy they would otherwise lose.

OPTION 9A. Require landscaping or fencing around property lines.

OPTION 9B: Require tree canopy replacement for trees lost from lot due to pipestem development. OPTION 9C: Require landscaping or fencing only under the special exception option. 10. Allow a special exception when a project does not meet these specifications. This would create a method of providing relief for a builder and would allow for greater community participation in the development of such a project.

It is recommended that, rather than pipestem variances going to the BZA, a special exception option would be written into the new zoning category. This option would allow the developer to vary from the standards in the ordinance and would allow a public review of any proposed pipestem development which could not meet the standards.

OPTION 10A. Create a use permit option.

OPTION 10B. Make required changes to Unified Residential Development to allow a two lot site to use this provision. Several issues were discussed with the Board last fall which were outside the scope of priority issues the Board had previously identified. After more discussion, the committee has decided they are outside the scope of ZORC and the following recommendations are given to the Board.

1. Tree Canopy and Coverage
Direct appropriate staff to work with relevant County departments as well as interested committees and commissions and the public toward future tree canopy, preservation and/or tree replacement ordinance(s).

2. Neighborhood Character
A. Request NCAC to work on the creation of a design manual which would include, at a minimum, landscaping and design plans. (This could be done in several ways, one section of which could be the development of a set of computerized house plans to distribute to Arlington builders which could be annotated to indicate in which neighborhoods these house designs would blend.) While such plans would not be mandated, it is hoped that, through this tool, builders might become more sensitive to neighborhood design issues.

B. In order to assist in community building and public education, we suggest an ongoing segment be created for our Cable TV channel showing examples of building design and additions.

3. Land Trusts
Several groups and commissions have expressed interest in setting up such an initiative within Arlington. Helping to establish such a committee and provide staff assistance would go a great way in getting such a private initiative off the ground. The Arlington Community Foundation could be approached to help seed this initiative. 4. Private Covenants and Easements
There are several examples of such initiatives which have already been undertaken in Arlington. It would require such elements as: publicizing the possibility of such initiatives to civic associations and neighbors, the creation of a template for use by individuals, building a list of attorneys willing to volunteer their time to assist in the creation and recording of such documents. We recommend turning such a project over to either NCAC or the Land Trust initiative described above. Recommendation to the Planning Commission
ZORC recommends setting up an ongoing IN-FILL subcommittee to explore changes to the Zoning Ordinance regarding other infill related issues. The subcommittee will meet monthly, using the expertise of ZORC's existing staff persons. The committee will liaison with ZORC as needed. The ZORC Vice-Chair will chair this subcommittee. Recommended changes to the Zoning Ordinance would go through the normal channels (community feedback, ZORC review, Planning Commission and County Board). While we would always have the option of going to the Board for guidance, at this time, we do not anticipate the need for future work sessions with the board on in-fill issues.

NEXT ROUND OF ISSUES (Initial list):