Grundy

GR Banning Garages and Brick Buildings?

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Yeah, okay, maybe the thread title was a little much, but I'm not sure it's that far off.  GRDadof3 posted a link to the Commission agenda for tomorrow in another thread.  http://grcity.us/city-clerk/CityCommission/090914epsec.pdf  I skimmed it and was surprised to see some rather surprising amendments to the zoning ordinance. 

 

First one:  "The maximum width of detached and attached accessory buildings shall not be greater than 50% of the total width of the principal building unless the accessory building is completely behind the principal building."

 

So unless you have a 100' wide lot, you can't build a two stall attached garage (24' for garage width, 50' for house, plus setbacks).   What does behind the principal building mean?  In the backyard, or the main building has to be physically in front of it?  If that actually means totally behind the main building, they basically banned all detached garages.  Lots simply aren't wide enough or deep enough to accommodate these requirements.

 

Second one:  "Facades must vary in materials so that each elevation contains no more than thirty-three (33) percent of any single building material. Windows and doors shall be excluded from the calculated area."

 

This seems to apply to construction in residential districts other than single family, and to mix-use commercial zoning.  Basically, you can't build a brick building.  There's a good idea...

 

 

(Forgive the silly pseudonym.. but I have my reasons on this one)

Edited by Grundy

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Yeah, okay, maybe the thread title was a little much, but I'm not sure it's that far off.  GRDadof3 posted a link to the Commission agenda for tomorrow in another thread.  http://grcity.us/city-clerk/CityCommission/090914epsec.pdf  I skimmed it and was surprised to see some rather surprising amendments to the zoning ordinance. 

 

First one:  "The maximum width of detached and attached accessory buildings shall not be greater than 50% of the total width of the principal building unless the accessory building is completely behind the principal building."

 

So unless you have a 100' wide lot, you can't build a two stall attached garage (24' for garage width, 50' for house, plus setbacks).   What does behind the principal building mean?  In the backyard, or the main building has to be physically in front of it?  If that actually means totally behind the main building, they basically banned all detached garages.  Lots simply aren't wide enough or deep enough to accommodate these requirements.

 

Second one:  "Facades must vary in materials so that each elevation contains no more than thirty-three (33) percent of any single building material. Windows and doors shall be excluded from the calculated area."

 

This seems to apply to construction in residential districts other than single family, and to mix-use commercial zoning.  Basically, you can't build a brick building.  There's a good idea...

 

 

(Forgive the silly pseudonym.. but I have my reasons on this one)

 

Probably means "behind the back....I was going to write some more but they definitely need some better definitions. Do you they mean "behind the building as to not be visible from the street?"

 

Why do they even need this? I think the small lots in the city will pretty much dictate that you can't do a mcmansion.

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Probably means "behind the back....I was going to write some more but they definitely need some better definitions. Do you they mean "behind the building as to not be visible from the street?"

 

Why do they even need this? I think the small lots in the city will pretty much dictate that you can't do a mcmansion.

 

My guess is they are trying to prevent snout houses, which sounds good to me, but they probably need to better define things.

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"Facades must vary in materials so that each elevation contains no more than thirty-three (33) percent of any single building material. Windows and doors shall be excluded from the calculated area."

 

I don't understand that one. I don't think my house would qualify, as it is all wood siding. This house was built in 1916, is basically original on the exterior (except for the roof, which is asphalt now instead of cedar), and is slightly historically significant.

 

The garage one makes sense - I think it could be argued that garage-centric houses are a real detriment to an urban fabric. The second one... I'm not even sure what that means.

 

I looked at the PDF, and found some Planning Commission discussion further down:

 

 

5.5.07.D. – Ms. Turkelson explained that this amendment clearly states that facades must vary

in materials so that each elevation contains no more than 33% of any single building material.
Windows and doors shall be excluded from the calculated area. The provision is also carried
into the commercial districts.
Ms. Schulz asked if the Planning Commission is comfortable with this for the residential zone
district.
Ms. Turkelson related that staff has seen proposals for single family homes with only vinyl siding
and every home looks the same. They’re meeting the threshold for uninterrupted façade of 30
linear feet so it’s vinyl on the bottom and vinyl on the end of the gable facing the street. The
developer has been fairly accommodating but it is a matter of negotiating with them asking that
they do something to break up the mass of vinyl.
Ms. Angelo asked if this requirement is specific to vinyl. An 80% brick home may not be
undesirable.
Ms. Turkelson feels that too much of any one material needs to be broken up.
Mr. Rozeboom noted that his home could not be rebuilt the way it is. Mr. Treur agreed noting
that he has all wood siding. Mr. Ruis stated that he isn’t sure his would either; his is lap and
shake siding.
Ms. Schulz clarified that this is for multi-family dwellings. She added that an administrative
departure is allowed for other methods that provide adequate articulation. Examples of
acceptable variations may include architectural or artistic details or features, variation in color or
materials and enhanced ornamentation around building entryways.
Mr. Treur asked if that would allow someone to build an all brick home. He noted that there are
some multi-family apartment buildings that are all brick and they look pretty nice.
Mr. Ruis noted that the variation in the brick is what is important. However, he would agree that
33% is not very much.
Ms. Angelo suggested you would have to use three different materials to get you to 99% and
you would then need a fourth.
The Planning Commission suggested and agreed upon no more than 2/3; 66%.

 

Regarding garages:

 

 

5.2.09.H.3. – This point was added limiting the maximum width of detached and attached

accessory buildings to no greater than 50% of the total width of the principal building unless the
accessory building is completely behind the principal building.
The Commission discussed this point. The different residential zones were discussed and it was
suggested that it may be different for different districts.
Ms. Turkelson suggested starting with 50% and when the residential standards are reviewed it
could be considered further.
Ms. Schulz suggested 50% in the TN and MCN Zone District and 75% in the MON.

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My guess is they are trying to prevent snout houses, which sounds good to me, but they probably need to better define things.

 

Snout houses* is not a heavily used term, so even that would need some better defining. ;)

 

*Snout house is slang for a house that has the garage as the main focal point

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I don't understand that one. I don't think my house would qualify, as it is all wood siding. This house was built in 1916, is basically original on the exterior (except for the roof, which is asphalt now instead of cedar), and is slightly historically significant.

 

The garage one makes sense - I think it could be argued that garage-centric houses are a real detriment to an urban fabric. The second one... I'm not even sure what that means.

 

I looked at the PDF, and found some Planning Commission discussion further down:

 

 

Regarding garages:

 

 

I think it's funny that all of the commissioners mentioned that none of their homes would meet the requirement. Although it sounds like this is meant for multi-family, not single family? Better definitions!!

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Wow--the zoning discussion makes no sense.  It's like they knew both of these were bad ideas, and just decided to throw stuff at the wall and fix it later. 

 

Facade variation is the latest rage in many high end suburban restrictive covenants to prevent all vinyl, and is why you see these strange facades with some brick, some vinyl, some faux shakes.  Does it work to cut down vinyl?  Sure, but the restrictive covenants actually mention the type of acceptable material and are usually in one fairly confined development.  Most existing GR construction wouldn't be allowed if this passes.

 

The garage regulations do appear problematic.  They appear to have tried this in Portland and set off a firestorm--but that ordinace was far less restrictive, and far better defined.  At the time, builders there said 95% of what they built would not qualify.  But portland was 50% of the total structure.  The GR ordinance is that garage can be only 50% of the width of the "principle building" which is distinct from the "attached accessory structure" (or detached, to be fair, but how this makes sense with a detached garage is baffling).  Basically, a garage appears to be limited to 33% of total structure unless it is "completely behind" the main building.  Unless "behind the building" means "behind the [principal building line of] the building, virtually nothing built today complies with this.  Effectively no stock plans could ever be built, making construction prohibitively expensive.

 

If "completely behind the building" means the garage has to be entirely behind the whole house, and no house at all can be behind the garage, most lots could not accommodate a compliant structure, even if one tried to comply.  About the only compliant front load attached garage plan would be an 80' wide mansion with a front-load or something resembling a double-wide trailer turned sideways on a half-acre lot.  Good luck finding that in the City.  Even a side-loader garage would be banned in most instances since the driveway and garage would take up the whole back yard, and you could never meet lot coverage requirements.  This is good planning? :rofl:

 

Maybe the saving grace is that no one wants to build a house in Grand Rapids anyway, so no one cares... :dontknow:

 

Edit:  x99's [updated!] gallery of banned houses with garages that are "out of proportion" under the proposed ordinance.  Funny stuff.  The skinny white one is right in GR on Fairmount.  None is a so-called "snout house".  Unless you live in a frame house with no garage, you can probably add yours to the list.

post-22351-0-00260800-1410269736_thumb.j

post-22351-0-02102300-1410269745_thumb.j

post-22351-0-87991300-1410270012_thumb.j

post-22351-0-79965900-1410270062_thumb.j

post-22351-0-61149800-1410270731_thumb.j

post-22351-0-34727500-1410271296_thumb.j

post-22351-0-63561800-1410271303_thumb.j

post-22351-0-94968600-1410271311_thumb.j

post-22351-0-66207400-1410271320_thumb.j

post-22351-0-23163800-1410271573_thumb.j

post-22351-0-18411600-1410271581_thumb.g

post-22351-0-70470400-1410272298_thumb.j

post-22351-0-32734100-1410272322_thumb.j

post-22351-0-96693700-1410272347_thumb.j

post-22351-0-34819000-1410272360_thumb.j

post-22351-0-64962700-1410272385_thumb.j

Edited by x99

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I think the commission meeting was this morning.  I'm assuming the garage and facade amendments passed without comment.  Anyone know? 

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Maybe the saving grace is that no one wants to build a house in Grand Rapids anyway, so no one cares... :dontknow:

 

I'm planning to build in the city.  

 

Regarding the garage thing, In reading the amendment, it's and ammendment to 5.2.09.H.3 which states Administrative Departure. An Administrative Departure may be approved by the Planning Director to permit additional GFA for garage or carport space for multiple-family uses, up to two (2) space per dwelling unit, provided the applicant can demonstrate the need for the space and all other conditions of this Chapter are met.

 

Seems clear (?) they're referring to duplexes, etc.

 

Either way, I sent a letter and emails to my commissioners regarding the 40' wide single family house with 24' wide front entry garage (set back from the facade, but not side/rear entry) I plan to build which fits the context of the neighborhood quite well I think.

Edited by twoshort

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Sorry I edited that so many times. :)  When I figured out it was directed at multiple family dwellings I decided there was no need to post a picture of my house plan. :)

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Sorry I edited that so many times. :)  When I figured out it was directed at multiple family dwellings I decided there was no need to post a picture of my house plan. :)

 

Nope.  This is directed at everything.  Not just multiple family.  Current section 3 (allowing you to exceed square footage limits in certain multiple family situations) is just being bumped to section 4.  This applies to all garages in the city attached to any sort of residential property, including single family.  If it passed, it is very possible your design is not acceptable without a single stall garage.  It all depends on the proper interpretation of "behind" which is not found anywhere in the Zoning Code.  "behind the main building line" and you are fine.  Anything else and you are screwed.  Also depends whether you are in a MON district and they actually modified it for MON districts.  If you are in MCN you are probably screwed.

Edited by x99

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The easiest way to not have a snout house is just say that the "garage front cannot be any closer to the street than the front fascia of the house." On a front loading garage in most of the denser areas of GR, that will pretty much limit you to a 1 stall or 1.5 stall garage. Or you might go 2 stall if you have an alley that runs in the back.

 

On the larger lots in the city, there's no reason to physically limit the size of garage that someone wants, if it will fit within the building envelope and sits flush with or set back from the front fascia.

 

As far as the part of the ordinance that requires multiple types of materials, that's even onerous for the suburbs. Most of the higher end neighborhoods just require "natural materials" either on the front of the house or on all four sides. Some even get into "4 sided architecture" requirements or 8/12 or 10/12 roof pitches. They don't however dictate necessarily 3 or 4 different kinds of materials. I'm not even familiar with one suburban neighborhood that requires that.

 

I don't think the new brownstones in Belknap would qualify for this amendment. I don't think any traditional styled brick brownstone project would qualify.

 

Sorry Suzanne, this is kind of a weird amendment. :) Maybe the intent was good but the execution doesn't make any sense.

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Sounds like it wasn't discussed at the meeting yesterday, but they still intend to vote on it in two weeks.  My commissioner said has contacted "staff" and is waiting to hear back from them.  I'll let you all know what turns up.

 

And because I'm sure your curious, my new house will be in a MCN.  

Edited by twoshort

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On the larger lots in the city, there's no reason to physically limit the size of garage that someone wants, if it will fit within the building envelope and sits flush with or set back from the front fascia.

 

I agree.  Who cares how big the garage if it isn't in front of the house?  My house is fairly large and so is the lot, but because of the location of the existing house, our garage has to be off to the side of the house somewhat, and about 20 feet forward of the back end of the house.  I don't see why this should be a problem at all, but it isn't clear to me whether the design we have a lot of time into making fit and look good will work now. 

 

 

Sounds like it wasn't discussed at the meeting yesterday, but they still intend to vote on it in two weeks.  My commissioner said has contacted "staff" and is waiting to hear back from them.  I'll let you all know what turns up.

 

And because I'm sure your curious, my new house will be in a MCN.  

 

Enough time left to figure this out and rally some publicity then, and hopefully move for clearer guidelines that don't have the possibility of prohibiting almost all new construction.  Ours is in TBD, but on a double lot where we would like to put the garage.  You got lucky getting in touch with someone.  I tried calling planning and no one called back.  Might have to make a trip down there to figure it out.

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From Suzanne Shulz, regarding the garage wording:

 

Hi Mike,
This particular amendment was removed from the list of proposed text amendments for adoption to the City Commission. This is not being considered at this time.
Best,
Suzanne

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From Suzanne Shulz, regarding the garage wording:

 

Hi Mike,

This particular amendment was removed from the list of proposed text amendments for adoption to the City Commission. This is not being considered at this time.

Best,

Suzanne

 

Good call.

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