Huntersville Approves Changes to Residential Design Standards

The Huntersville Board of Commissioners last night voted 5-1 to approve a series of changes to the Town’s residential aesthetic requirements, bringing the zoning code toward full compliance with state law.

The Board approved a modified proposal agreed upon by REBIC and Town planners that eliminates a garage setback mandate and further reduces requirements for the construction of alleys in single-family neighborhoods. Dan Boone, the one dissenting commissioner, argued that the changes would negatively impact the town’s community aesthetics, and expressed disappointment with the law passed last year by the General Assembly.

S.L. 2015-86 signed into law last summer by Governor Pat McCrory, prohibits local governments from imposing design standards on single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes. The design elements prohibited under the law include, among other things, ‘exterior building color, type of exterior cladding material, and location or architectural styling of windows and doors, including garage doors …’  (emphasis ours).

Prior to the adoption of these amendments, Huntersville’s zoning ordinance required all single-family homes built on lots wider than 60′ to recess the garage at least 10′ behind the front facade of the structure, and required an alley-loaded garage on lots narrower than 60′ in width.

The amendments approved last night were based on language negotiated between REBIC and town staff, requiring alleys only on lots 50′ or narrower, while fully eliminating the garage setback requirement on all lots in width. In addition, language was added at REBIC’s request allowing developers to apply for a conditional-use zoning to build lots 50′ or narrower without alleys. Almost all of Huntersville’s residential zoning is by-right, meaning it is approved through an administrative process, without a zoning hearing.

In an effort to force garage setbacks on narrower lots, the staff proposal limited driveways to a width of 12′ at ROW for all lots 60′ and narrower. After REBIC raised concerns about that language, the driveway width was increased last night to 14′ though an amendment offered by Commissioner Rob Kidwell and seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Phillips.

While we believe the approved language still fails to fully meet the intent of the state aesthetics law, most builders and developers will benefit greatly from the changes, which eliminate the Town’s garage setback requirement, as well as the need for alleys in most new neighborhoods. REBIC applauds the board for approving these changes, and will continue to work with the town in the months ahead to encourage additional changes to its residential zoning standards.

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