Culver Zoning 7/19 Update – Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous post regarding Culver’s July Plan Commission Meeting, regarding proposed changed to the Culver Zoning Ordinance.

L-1 Setbacks

The L-1 zoning district considers the lake side of property the front yard. There is a front yard minimum setback of 25′, but there is an additional clause that only applies in this district: Where property immediately adjacent on either side of the lot is already developed with principal structures, the required setback shall be determined by a line drawn between the farthest extension of the adjacent structures, including any decks or raised patios. In no case shall the setback be less than 25 feet from the normal high water mark. (Culver Zoning Ordinance, pg 24)

This is part of the 2017 ordinance (current) and goes back through several earlier versions of the ordinance. Discussion was initiated last year to consider eliminating this restriction and going to just the 25′ minimum setback like any other district. What’s interesting about this is, that while restrictive, this isn’t an issue that comes before the BZA often. In general, if the property owner is not already familiar with the restriction from the ordinance, the Building Commissioner explains it and it is just a given. In most cases, the property owners see how this would benefit them, if there is future development on neighboring lots.

I know this can be restrictive at times. As pointed out in the meetings, there are some lots that are larger and because they were originally developed with large front yards, they become a controlling factor on their neighbors. There is also the issue of how this affects lot development based on the curvature of the lake. I don’t know of any cases where a lot has been rendered unbuildable by this restriction and I can’t imagine the BZA not granting a variance where the enforcement of this restriction was an issue.

Some of the discussion was regarding the restriction of “views”. There is no doubt that this was set up to preserve views, but some of the current thinking is that a property owner’s view is only guaranteed directly in front of the property. This is true, since there is no restriction on landscaping in the front yard, so trees and other herbaceous obstructions are allowed. I don’t know of any cases where neighbors have pursued this spitefully though, since in reality, it would obstruct their views as well.

I have several thoughts regarding this change:

This restriction is no different than the height restrictions or any other restrictions put on lots that are meant to control growth and maintain orderly development. These are all arbitrary values that have been determined and codified with the best intentions for all. These vary from community to community based on each communities values.

Removing this restriction at this time is extremely unfair to those that have been subjected to this restriction in the past. When all are subject to it, then it’s fair. If a home constructed last year was designed to meet this requirement, set windows to take advantage of it, etc., they should have some sense of comfort that their neighbor’s future development will follow the same rules. Many lake residences are $1MM+ and their design decisions are affected by these rules. Consistency in the rules is important.

This change should not be considered in a vacuum. This has been discussed over the last year amongst the Plan Commission members. Only one of those members is a lake resident. Realizing that there will be an advertised Public Hearing before this can be passed, it would still make sense to get input from the residents affected as the change is crafted. My thought is that it should have been out for discussion in the community over this summer, while more lake residents are here. This will be a hot issue! Why not preempt some of that by getting input from those affected?

In the end, I think the Plan Commission is setting themselves up for some unnecessary heartburn on this issue. I may be wrong and as always, I cut them a lot of slack as volunteers. I just see this as a bees nest that they don’t need to kick…

One more post regarding this meeting is coming. This one definitely falls into the category of a rant! Ha!

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