The name of the game was semantics at the Blaine Planning Commission’s September 13 public hearing on lot coverage. After listening to the city planning staff’s testimony and recommendations for an updated definition of lot coverage, the commissioners spent the rest of the meeting carefully deliberating over how the zoning text amendment would be worded.
The city’s lot coverage requirements dictate how much of a lot can be covered with buildings or other impervious surfaces. Impervious surfaces are those that rainwater cannot flow through to reach the ground underneath.
Patios and driveways, which are not regulated by the city, contribute to the lot coverage requirement – effectively reducing the amount of lot space that homeowners can build on. Homeowners often hit a wall when they go to build an addition or other structure and discover that they have already unknowingly met or exceeded their lot coverage allowance.
Facing just this problem, Ritzie de los Reyes addressed city planners through an email, writing that he was “finding it very hard and expensive to justify and make the renovation [to add square footage to his home] possible due to the current code restrictions.” De los Reyes has an existing driveway that has pushed him to the limit of his lot coverage requirement and, under current municipal code, will not be able to continue expansion of his home unless he removes it and replaces it with pervious material.
Distinctions between open, natural and vegetative space were also part of Thursday’s discussion, as well as the environmental impact a change in lot coverage requirements would have on the community. In the end, the commissioners agreed to strike “and other impervious surfaces” from the zoning text and create a provision requirement for open or natural space instead. Because open and natural space both have specific meanings in municipal code, the commissioners asked the planning staff to consider what the exact wording should be in order to clearly define the amendment’s scope.
“Requiring open space is a huge thing for me,” said commissioner Sue Sturgill during the deliberations. The addition of this requirement would ensure that residentially zoned lots would not be completely covered with impervious surfaces or buildings. The commissioners voted 4-1-1 in favor of recommending the zoning text amendment, with Commissioner Tabb opposed and Commissioner LeBrun absent.
The recommendations for amendment will be presented to Blaine city council for final approval at a later date.