After more than two years of debate, public meetings, workshops and surveys — and after paying RDG Planning & Consulting nearly $70,000 to write a comprehensive growth and development plan, the City Council this week approved the first major revision of Maryville's residential zoning regulations since the early 1990s.
There was relatively little discussion about the three ordinances enshrining the changes. The council appeared to have reached a general consensus on zoning several weeks ago, and City Manager Greg McDanel and his staff have been working since then to incorporate a final round of public input gathered earlier this summer.
At the heart of the new rules is the creation of three special "overlay" areas to the north, south and east of Northwest Missouri State University.
Density requirements and other regulations governing the north and south zones, or "University Neighborhood Overlay Districts," are intended to conserve the "predominantly single-family" character of those neighborhoods.
The eastern overlay, or "Campus Town," allows for higher population densities designed to encourage a variety of residential uses, including rental homes, apartments and duplexes.
A key distinction between the two types of overlays is the number of unrelated persons, that is residents not linked by kinship or marriage, allowed to live together in a single-family house. In the university overlays, the definition of a household unit allows for only two unrelated persons. In Campus Town, however, the standard is four unrelated.
Density standards in parts of the city not included in the three overlays are based on a mixture of zones that allows for two, three and four unrelated persons per residence.
Those standards remain unchanged.
Another difference between the university zones and Campus Town has to do with "accessory rentals," or what amounts to a self-contained apartment either inside a house or incorporated into a secondary building like a garage. Such dwellings are banned in the "university" neighborhoods but allowed in Campus Town, where one accessory unit is permitted per house.
The definition of "accessory rental" is considerably more detailed under the new rules, and City Attorney Doug Thomson told the council Monday that vagaries in the previous definition had caused numerous problems, including litigation.
Among other things, accessory rentals must include separate facilities for "living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation," a "direct entrance" from the outside of the dwelling and off-street parking.
Most discussion at Monday's council meeting revolved around the allowed "grandfathering" of existing non-conforming uses inside all three overlays. Such uses will be allowed if they are currently legal, and if property owners notify City Hall of the non-conformance in a timely manner.
McDanel said the city will notify non-conforming property owners of the need to register over the next two weeks, and that those citizens will have 120 days to file the necessary documentation. Those who don't register will lose their grandfather status and be subject to the new rules.
Grandfathered property owners can also lose their exemption if the status of their property changes for a set length of time due to a shift in the number unrelated persons in residence or unrepaired damage from fire, storms or some other cause.
Councilman Jim Fall said keeping an accurate accounting of non-conforming uses within the overlay zones is essential if the new rules are to have any teeth.
"It's critical that we monitor that and ensure compliance," he said.
Councilman Jeff Funston emphasized the difference between code violations and allowable non-conforming land use under zoning law.
"You can't grandfather in something that's illegal now," said Funston, citing graveled driveways as an example.
In addition to density requirements, the new regulations set forth specifications for lot area, yard size, structure footprint, building height, setbacks and off-street parking capacity.
All three ordinances passed by the council this week, one each for the overlays, non-conforming use registration and accessory rentals, went into effect immediately. Designated Council Bill Nos. 2012'55, 2012'56 and 2012'57, they are available for review at www.maryville.org.