ZBOA opts not to ask county planning board to revise zoning regulations pertaining to townhomes

The Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustments discussed townhouse regulations again during their Dec. 16 meeting.

It was a follow-up to their November meeting when townhome regulations since the developers in Foothills Ranch subdivision applied for special use permits to put townhomes in the current phase. Several area residents came to the meeting to oppose the townhomes since they were under the impression that only single family homes could be built in the subdivision.

They asked the board to deny the permits because they said the had been lead to believe only single family, estate style homes would be built in the area and that townhomes would lower their property values.

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The board approved all the permits and staff recommended approval since their analysis found that the requirements of the zoning regulations had been met.

After that meeting, ZBOA member Charles Kuether said that he wondered if they were happy with the rules and whether they should ask the planning board to consider revisiting the rules.

During the Dec. 16 ZBOA meeting, the board discussed a draft letter to the planning board asking them to consider revising the county zoning regulations regarding secondary dwellings.

The ZBOA draft letter to the planning board states that their understanding of the SUP for a secondary dwelling in the county zoning regulations, “was originally written to address the situation in which a homeowner might be faced with the need to provide care and assistance to a parent or other related dependent person(s). By using this section, the applicant could provide housing and assistance at his residence in this special circumstance. In such a case this would seem to be the safest, least expensive, and most humane way to attend to family and avoid taxing the medical or nursing home resources of the community.”

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They wrote that recently the board had received an increasing number of applications from “developers who are using this section to seek permission to site duplexes or townhomes on lots. It seems to us this was not the original intent of the section. It may be a way for developers to make additional money, and it may provide additional housing needed in our community, but it does not seem to reflect the intent of the regulation nor to demonstrate well-considered planning.”

The ZBOA draft letter asks the planning board to consider revising the working of these sections of the regulations to make them more accurately reflect what they believe was the intention of the regulation.

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“As it currently stands, as a board, we are more or less required to grant a SUP application,” the board wrote in their draft, once the applicant meets the standards applicable to special uses in the zoning regulations. “We would appreciate it if you would please give this matter your attention as soon as possible to allow us to better address this increase in the number of applications that do not seem to correspond to the spirit and intent” of the regulation.

Ken Thornton, ZBOA board member, said he was in favor of asking them to revise the rules since he felt it was a loophole that “I don’t think should exist.”

He said he believed the rules allowing for a second dwelling on a property was intended for building a home for an aging grandparent or other family members.

Katie Hanning ZBOA member, asked the county attorney if the discussion of changing the rules would get the board into legal trouble.

County Attorney Carey Ann Haight said it was okay since the ZBOA isn’t the decision making body on the zoning regulations and their job is to review project applications, making decisions based on the facts and the rules.

She said the board does have the ability to evaluate impacts on other property owners and mitigate those through conditions.

John Harding, ZBOA member, said that housing availability is a national issue and that the state legislature has also looked at changes to the subdivision regulations.

Thornton said that there’s plenty of room so they they don’t need to double up lots and utilities and traffic are dependent on density.

He said the issues related to density need to be done in the planning stage when they do the platting and initial subdivision approvals, which go to the planning board, not the ZBOA.

Thornton said maybe the regulations should be changed to limit the size of secondary dwelling to keep it to mother-in-law suites and grandparents type situations.

Harding said he wouldn’t be in favor of sending the letter since it’s a community discussion and if the public doesn’t like the rules, they should raise those issues at the planning board and say something should change.

Hanning said that she was not in favor of sending the letter and agreed that the public should contact the planning board if they want to see the regulations for townhomes changes.

“I don’t think it’s something that we need to do,” she said.