09/16 Planning Commission - Finalizing Zoning Code Update

For those who are interested, the proposed Zoning Code Update will have a public hearing before the Planning Commission tomorrow (Monday) night at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers at City Hall. This is one of the final steps prior to adoption, and probably the last, or next-to-last, chance to make any changes in the document. If approved, it will then proceed to City Council for first and second readings - likely at either their 09/24 and 10/08 meetings, or their 10/08 and 10/22 meetings. Once approved on second reading, it should go into effect after 30 days.

The Update will make some significant changes in both residential and commercial areas; it will affect where and how homes and other structures can be built, things that can be done to homes and yards, and the types of businesses that can operate in particular commercial and residential areas.

Among the proposed changes it will make, and where they can be found:

* Prohibit new flag lot subdivisions in the City. (Existing flag lots can remain as such.) - Title 17.04.050, Definitions - general. "Lot, Flag"
* Exempt most outdoor dining areas at restaurants from parking requirements, and would not require Planning Commission review for any of them. - Tables & (Areas more than 50% of the gross floor area of the restaurant would be subject to half of the standard requirement, for that extra space only.)
* Prohibit all new chain link fence installations in residential areas visible from the public right-of-way. (Existing ones can remain, and a certain amount of repairs and maintenance are allowed.) - 17.68.080
* Prohibit all new installations of wrought iron security screens and window bars in areas visible from the public right-of-way. - 17.08.050.K
* Remove automotive repair as a permitted use everywhere in the city except the M-1 manufacturing and Commercial/Industrial Mixed Use areas. (Existing uses with Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) would be unaffected, but future uses would be prohibited.) - Table
* Both strengthen and liberalize how legal nonconforming uses and structures are dealt with. (For example, uses/structures that have an existing CUP or were granted a zoning variance would in most cases not become legal nonconforming if the Code were later changed.) - 17.72
* Make numerous changes to make the Code consistent with the General Plan, and to add provisions mandated by State law.

The above-noted changes are ones that I found particularly worthy of notice. At the end of the agenda packet - or at end of the ones for earlier meetings, at least, there is an excellent overview of changes that is highly recommended. This is a huge, long-overdue project. It is very well-done overall, but as with any project of its scope, there are things in it that some will object to, or otherwise feel were not well-thought-out.

(Please note that these cannot be found in the Municipal Code section of the Website; RMC only reflects changes already in effect. The Update can be found in Document Central as part of the agenda packet for the Planning Commission meeting; notifications for the meeting should also have a direct link to that agenda packet. Staff also has a copy available for public review at the Planning counter at City Hall.)

Strictly speaking, changes can (and have) been made to Code updates at both first and second readings before Council; however, from a practical standpoint, the later you are in the approval process, the less receptive they are to making changes. The sooner, the better.

For those who want to do further research, the agenda packets for the following previous meetings in 2013 will have some additional, work-in-progress information:

* City Council/Planning Commission joint study session: August 13th (5:00 PM meeting)
* Zoning Code Update Subcommittee meetings: June 3rd, June 17th and July 22nd
* The two public outreach meetings held in July did not have agenda packets.