Infill Housing Study

The Planning Department has been directed by the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission to prepare recommendations for managing infill housing development. These recommendations are based on the most recent local infill housing study effort conducted by the Planning Department, and will be the focus of the Athens-Clarke County Infill Housing Study (Phase 3) report document.

Recent Public Discussion Documents
Staff has conducted multiple public meetings to share ideas, allow stakeholders share their views and garner public opinion. This powerpoint was presented at the July 28th Community Meeting for Input on Draft Recommendations. Questions or comments may be sent to the Planning Department or we can be reached at 706 613.3515.

The options below are potential areas of change in regulations that address aspects of Infill Housing Development. They reflect input from the ACC Planning Commission, research by Planning Staff and comments from various stakeholders.

1. Develop Context Sensitive Development Overlays Zones with Unique Development Standards
Staff has defined “Context Sensitive Development Standards” or “Dynamic Development Standards” as variable development metrics (e.g. setbacks, building height, lot coverage, orientation, massing, fenestration architectural detailing, and/or driveway width and placement) that are determined by sampling or averaging the existing conditions of these same metrics that exist on the developed properties in the immediate vicinity of a subject property. The intent is to create a set of development standards that draws upon the existing character of the residential development in the immediate vicinity of a residential infill site. This is a relatively unique approach to drafting development standards for areas outside of local historic districts, and staff is paying close attention to the legal and procedural issues associated with such an approach, as well as the practical challenges with writing coherent code that can be understood by property owners, developers, planners, and the community as a whole.

The existing Chapter 9-12, Special District Overlays, in the ACC Code accommodates the creation of Context Sensitive Development Overlay districts. The creation of such overlay districts would follow the Type I review procedure. Initiation of this process would come from the community, with sponsorship of the County Commissioner(s) representing the area, and would require action by the Mayor and Commission directing Staff to work with the community to develop the associated standards and the boundaries for the area proposed to be regulated by the resulting Special District Overlay.
  • Standards would be developed specifically for the defined area and enacted concurrently with the creation of the Overlay District for which they apply. No minimum or maximum area has been determined.
  • Standards would be administered by staff; no new appointed board would be created to administer these standards.
  • It is anticipated that some defined amount of variation above and/or below established standards would be allowed by-right. Variances for other deviations from the unique development standards would be heard by the Hearings Board.
2. Implement Single-Family Plans Review Process
Planning Staff have met with representatives from the various development review departments within the Unified Government to develop recommendations for implementing a Plans Review process for new Single-Family Residential construction. Significant additions to existing single-family residences (resulting in a 50% or greater expansion of gross floor area) are also being considered for this same process. Benchmark communities that have already implemented a coordinated Plans Review process for single-family construction have been identified and the relative merits of their approaches are being used to guide recommendations for an Athens-Clarke County process. These benchmark communities include Portland, OR; Austin, TX; Charleston, SC, and Greensboro, NC. The intended result is to create a process that is (a) predictable, (b) clearly organized so that it can be easily communicated by staff to applicants, (c) appropriately-scaled so that it does not create additional bureaucratic entanglements, and (d) is tailored to the regulatory realities and expectations of our community.

3. Propose Incentives for Context-Sensitive Infill Development and identify possible educational programs for the general public and development community.
Staff has researched potential incentives and educational programs that could be used to encourage context-sensitive infill development with the goal of creating a menu of options for review by the Planning Commission. Incentives utilized in other communities range from an expedited review process for select infill development projects, to providing contact information and guidance to developers seeking grants in cooperation with various related agencies (e.g. ACC Human and Community Development; Athens Housing Authority; state and federal agencies; non-profits and foundations). Additionally, attention has been given to potential tax incentives from the local governing authority for infill development that meets certain specified goals. Staff is compiling a list of educational strategies that include community roundtables and topic-specific workshops, best-practice guidelines and an infill housing manual, and additional local awards programs recognizing successful infill developments. More research into the viability of financial aid options for infill development is needed before specific recommendations of this sort can be proposed.

4. Proposed Changes to RS Development Regulations
a) Front Yard Setback
Minimum front yard setbacks remain the same, as follows:
Zone
Min. Front Setback
Max. Overall Building Height
RS-5
15 feet
30 feet
RS-8
15 feet
30 feet
RS-15
20 feet
30 feet
RS-25
20 feet
30 feet
RS-40
25 feet
35 feet

  • Required front yard setback shall increase from the minimum setback in proportion with 100% of overall building height.
  • In all cases, building setbacks adjacent to parking areas shall be at least 18 feet from the adjacent right-of-way to allow adequate room for a parked car to be entirely on private property.
  • BUILDING HEIGHT: In all cases the maximum height of the front elevation of the principal structure as measured at the setback line shall be 20 feet, with the building height increasing at a rate not to exceed 1 foot in additional height for each additional foot measured laterally from the setback line. Maximum height remains unchanged.
b) Side Yard Setback
Change minimum side yard setbacks as follows:
  • RS-5 and RS-8: Minimum side yard for principal structures is 6 feet or 12% of lot width as measured at the front yard line, whichever is greater. Minimum side yard setback for side yards adjacent to streets shall be 10 feet or 12% of lot width as measured at the front yard line, whichever is greater.
  • RS-15 and RS-25: Minimum side yard for principal structures is 10 feet or 12% of lot width as measured at the front yard line, whichever is greater.
  • RS-40: Minimum side yard for principal structures is 18 feet or 12% of lot width as measured at the front yard line, whichever is greater.
  • In all cases, the side yard setback shall be uniformly maintained along the entire side lot line.
  • BUILDING HEIGHT: In all cases the maximum height of the side elevation of the principal structure as measured at the setback line shall be 20 feet, with the building height increasing at a rate not to exceed 1 foot in additional height for each additional foot measured laterally from the setback line. Maximum height remains unchanged.
c) Rear Yard Setback
  • RS-5 and RS-8: Increase minimum rear yard for principal structures to 15 feet plus one foot of additional setback for each foot of the building’s rear elevation height over 20 feet.
  • RS-15 and RS-25: Increase minimum rear yard for principal structures to 20 feet plus one foot of additional setback for each foot of the building’s rear elevation height over 20 feet.
  • RS-40: Retain minimum rear yard for principal structures to 25 feet plus one foot of additional setback for each foot of the building’s rear elevation height over 20 f
d) Grading and Retaining Walls
  • No retaining wall greater than four feet in height shall be located within any required setback.
    • Retaining walls greater than four feet in height are considered structures by International Building Code and require a Professional Engineer’s seal.
  • Retaining walls within 5 feet of any structure shall be included in the height calculation for the associated structure.
  • No grading resulting in a finished slope of more than 3:1 will be allowed in RS zone setbacks, unless pre-development grade exceeds 3:1 and the development’s grading will result in a slope reduction.

The Planning Department would like to hear from you!

Planning Staff is available to talk with you directly about the recommendations and to hear your feedback and other input related to infill residential development. The Planning Department offices are located at 120 West Dougherty Street.

We encourage you to submit feedback using the online comment form so that we are better able to compile public input received. Please use this link: Online Comment Form


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