Culver Zoning 7/19 Update – Part 1

The Culver Plan Commission is looking into some changes to the Zoning Ordinance. Some of this is prompted by what is coming before the BZA for Variances and some of it is based on recommendations from the Building Commissioner and various commission members.

R-1 Setbacks

The first issue under discussion is rear yard setbacks in the R-1 district. The two things being discussed regarding this are:

  1. Single Family Rear Yard Setback: 25′ (page 26)
  2. Accessory Structure Setback: no less than 10′ from the rear lot line (page 82)

Regarding #1, some of the members on the Plan Commission also serve on the BZA. They referenced this as one of the issues that comes up constantly. This is particularly an issue in the areas of town where the Lot of Record is non-conforming by size, i.e. too small. The discussion initially centered around reducing the R-1 Rear Setback requirement from 25′ to 10′, which is apparently a commonly granted variance request. There was pushback on this from some members that felt that this needed BZA review and shouldn’t be the default.

I made the suggestion that the ordinance be modified to allow the 25′ setback to remain in place for conforming lots and allow the reduction for the smaller non-conforming lots. This seemed palatable to the majority of the members, but it was tabled for further thought and discussion at the next meeting. One additional thought I had is how this change would affect the R-1 impervious surface limitations in the ordinance. (Maximum Impervious Lot Coverage: 50%) Many of the lots requesting setback variance may still be coming to the BZA due to this limitation. This becomes a trickier issue as it not only affects the adjacent neighbors, but the entire storm water system and Lake Maxinkuckee. This should be considered as well.

On a side note, I was pleased to hear one of the members bring up the affordable housing issue and how zoning restrictions often stymie creative solutions. I hope he carries this forward into the ongoing Comprehensive Plan meetings. Some allowances for creativity and New Urbanism would put Culver ahead of most of our neighboring communities and the County.

Regarding #2, some members thought there was a discrepancy, since accessory structures were allowed within 10′ of the rear property line. I would argue that there is a big difference between the an accessory structure and a main structure within 10′ of the rear property line. An accessory structure, such as a garage, gazebo or yard barn, which is limited to a height of 16′ and generally will have a smaller footprint. The main structure is allowed to be 35′ in height and often has a footprint that fills the lot from side setback to side setback. This could be quite imposing for the neighboring property, particularly in cases where there isn’t an alley or other additional open space. Personally, I think this should stand as is, though I might suggest tweaking it to address garages that access rear yard alleys. When they are constructed 10′ off the alley, general access can create issues and often trespass on the neighbors.

The other issue that was discussed was the line of site setback requirement for L-1 properties, but I’ll address that in a separate post.

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