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The Elizabethtown Planning Commission has recommended a series of changes to the city’s zoning ordinance the planning director said should ease burdens on property owners and provide the commission with more flexibility.
Ed Poppe said the changes entail the creation of a transition overzone and would relax restrictions on downtown parking. Elizabethtown City Council heard the first reading for the proposed zone changes Monday with a second reading scheduled for early December.
A transition overzone is a zone that would be laid over another zone, Poppe said. Whether commercial or residential, the properties in the overzone would retain their prior zone. Poppe said the zone likely would be applied to commercial areas under transition or redevelopment in older parts of the city.
The overzone was proposed because certain areas within the city under redevelopment may struggle to meet the city’s modern zoning standards because they are geared toward new developments. In certain cases, properties in this area may be unable to meet all of the requirements within the zoning standards.
Some areas Poppe said could be reviewed for a possible overzone designation is Dixie Avenue between North Miles Street and St. John Road and North Mulberry Street between West Poplar and French streets.
No properties have been identified for the overzone yet, but Poppe said the designation would give the commission the mechanism to consider projects and properties on a case-by-case basis.
“Because some areas to which these goals apply are comprised of older, smaller and more narrow lots, certain waivers may be commonly required,” the ordinance said.
These waivers may be warranted to relax standards on lot size, parking, entrances and landscaping, according to the ordinance.
“We’re not throwing the book away,” Poppe said. “We’re not saying they don’t have to meet any of the standards.”
Instead, it gives assistance to properties where the standards cannot reasonably be applied.
“It just gives everybody a little more flexibility,” he said.
Poppe said a public hearing would be required before an area could be placed into a transition overzone.
Poppe said the overzone is a preferred measure to creating a new transition zone, which would require a new set of standards to be written specifically for that zone. Poppe said the comprehensive plan favors the city’s current zoning structure but instructs the city to consider areas under transition. However, it does not indicate the creation of a new zone category for transition areas.
The changes also ease regulations on downtown parking. Poppe said the city does not require a downtown business to offer off-street parking for their customers, but a business owner must meet all of the parking standards set by the city if they desire a parking area.
The new language would strip this requirement and simply recommend the standards. If the standards cannot be met, the city will allow the business owner to establish however many parking spaces the lot will allow. For example, someone may want to establish a restaurant. The standards may call for 10 spaces but the lot only holds four. In this situation, the zone change would allow the parking lot to exist with four spaces, he said.
Poppe said the commission hopes the change may entice more business into the downtown area as the city works to revitalize the corridor.
Other recommended changes include a tweak of sign regulations allowing for larger signs for certain retail outlets while another change would allow churches on certain streets to use electronic signage, Poppe said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.