Sunset Hills’ new zoning code needs to take concerns into account

Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

Sunset Hills’ Board of Aldermen has directed Houseal Lavigne, the consultant that drafted the proposed new zoning code — known as the Unified Development Ordinance or UDO — to retain existing R1-R6 minimum lot sizes.

This is a step in the right direction, but there are still tremendous problems with the current draft which must be addressed.

First, Section 3.4 of the UDO permits planned developments with multifamily housing including apartments, townhouses, condos and cluster homes in all districts everywhere in the city — in some cases on lots smaller than 2 acres — and single-family attached dwellings in all districts except R-1.

Second, the current zoning ordinance requires strict objective standards for such developments.

These include minimum parcel and lot sizes, maximum density, setbacks, height and common ground requirements.

Section 8 of the UDO, which governs planned developments, proposes a more flexible and developer friendly framework that specifically permits a development which impairs or diminishes neighboring property values — so long as the impairment is not, in someone’s subjective opinion, substantial.

Section 8 also robs residents of the ability to force a supermajority vote by the board to pass a development in the event the Planning and Zoning Commission recommends against it or the neighbors mount a protest. In short, the UDO remains developer friendly at residents’ expense.

It reduces residents’ opportunity to stop unwanted developments that would otherwise be restricted by the current zoning code.

We need a resident friendly zoning code. Once Houseal rewrites the UDO to reinstate the R1-R6 districts, it will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

Both the P&Z commissioners and the board should heed residents’ concerns and fix the problems with Section 3.4 and Section 8 of the UDO.

Gary Vincent
Sunset Hills