Decatur City Commission approves UDO

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 17, 2014
City Planning Director Amanda Thompson goes over the first draft of the city's Unified Development Ordinance. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

City Planning Director Amanda Thompson goes over the first draft of the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur City Commissioners approved a major revision of the city’s zoning codes on Monday, Nov. 17.

While the city says 95 percent of the ordinance is cleaning up what’s already on the books, there are changes aimed at making buildings more energy efficient and promoting affordable housing.

The final draft is more than 400 pages long and has been under development for most the last year and a half. To read the final draft, click here. The city held a number of public input sessions and received comment on previous drafts of the UDO before the Nov. 17 meeting.

Among the changes under the new zoning rules:

– Caleb Racicot with city consultant TSW and Associates, the company that helped to draft the ordinance, said while the ordinance renames certain zoning districts, it doesn’t change the current zoning for any property. “This is truly a text amendment,” he said. “We have not proposed any mapping changes. We are not rezoning anyone’s property.”

– The ordinance provides a tool to save homes that have been nominated for historic preservation. The new regulations allows for a delay of a maximum of 60 days with a possible 30 day extension for homes nominated for protection by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

– There will be no special process in the code for increasing a building’s floor area ratio, or FAR. The FAR states that a total floor area of a structure must be no more than the same number of square feet, including accessory buildings.

– The code technically does not allow outdoor dining outside of the city’s downtown, but obviously was not being enforced in other parts of the city like Oakhurst. Those standards now apply to any commercial district in the city.

– The building and fire codes have been made “addition neutral” so they don’t make reference to specific additions to various fire codes.

– All lot subdivisions will still be reviewed by the City Commission. The city can also take digital submissions for lot subdivisions.

– There will be a 15-day notification period for demolition permits issued by the city. This is intended to give residents living near a tear-down aware that it’s happening. The city had talked about going as long as 90 days on delaying a tear-down, but this idea was discarded after it received negative reaction during the public input process.

The city will release a presentation from Monday’s meeting providing a complete summary of the changes.

Commissioners approved the UDO unanimously. The ordinance will take effect Feb. 1, 2015.

City Commissioners also approved an intergovernmental agreement between the city and its Downtown Development Authority concerning the purchase of the old Scottish Rite property for $1.45 million. The DDA will issue a $1.8 million bond to cover the purchase and the costs of financing as well as some “limited improvements” to the property.


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