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The city will hold a public hearing Tuesday on rewriting the zoning code

April 20 – The long-awaited proposed zoning and land use ordinance will finally be available for review, comment and questions during a public meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Decatur City Hall.

City Manager Dane Shaw said the ordinance with zoning and land use maps will be available for public review.

Shaw said officials from the Planning and Construction Department will be on hand to answer questions. They want the public to be able to provide written comments at the meeting, so comment sheets will be available.

The city began working on a new zoning ordinance after approving the One Decatur Comprehensive Plan in 2018.

The City Council that year hired consultant Clarion Associates of North Carolina to lead the rewrite for $195,000. Multiple issues have slowed efforts, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Planning Department personnel changes.

Decatur still operates under an ordinance created in the early 1950s that includes rules on where slaughterhouses and ice cream factories can be located in the city. While many of the rules have changed over time, the rules for those defunct operations remain on the books.

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Planning Commission Chairman Kent Lawrence said major changes are included in the zoning rewrite that will be important to Decatur residents, although new rules for short-term rentals are not included in the proposed zoning and land use ordinance.

“That (short-term rental) will come later,” he said.

However, Lawrence said the new zoning ordinance will regulate accessory or free-standing structures. This includes not allowing short-term rentals in detached buildings.

Lawrence said the ordinance would also regulate the size of additional construction, which is an issue in the city.

“Right now there is no regulation of size,” he said.

The secondary structure scheme is intended for situations such as those in 2017.

That year, a Southwest Decatur resident built an approximately 20-foot-tall metal storage building in his backyard behind his home. At the time, home values ​​in his neighborhood were over $250,000.

The homeowner’s neighbors complained, but he refused to remove the building. They went to the city, but city officials could not remove the building because it met the 5-foot requirement.

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The proposed zoning ordinance also makes changes for parking, including the number of parking spaces required based on the size of the business, Lawrence said.

He said another provision in the proposed new ordinance would prevent residents from using their front yards to park their vehicles.

The ordinance also regulates how wide a driveway and paved parking area in a yard can be, he said.

The proposed ordinance includes changes to sign regulations, which have been controversial since their passage in 2002. Sign setbacks would also change, Lawrence said.

Shaw added that the ordinance also gives the city’s development director the authority to reject a sign “if it just doesn’t work for safety.” He said there should be a “sight triangle” in which the sign does not block the driver’s view from different directions.

Shaw said a new zoning map is part of the proposed ordinance. This map clears out many of the city’s zones, he said.

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For example, Shaw said there are still some residential zones with light industrial areas, even though these areas no longer include industries.

Shaw said the city will accept written comments at the meeting and on the city’s website over the next two weeks. City officials and Clarion will then review the comments for possible changes.

“If nothing major happens, we plan to present the zoning rewrite to the Planning Commission on May 21,” Shaw said.

Shaw said the plan is to move the proposed zoning ordinance to the City Council in June. An ordinance must go before two readings and a public hearing before the City Council votes on whether to give it final approval.

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— bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432

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