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Roswell Digs into Overhauling Zoning Codes

Code Studio consultants are currently addressing zoning issues through code redevelopment. First up: residential.

Roswell's zoning codes have often been criticized, sometimes controversial and typically hard to understand, which is why they're currently being overhauled, say city leaders.

According to the city, Code Studio consultants - hired by the city in May - are critiquing the existing zoning code, incorporating the Imagine Roswell 2030 Comprehensive Plan, the Economic Development Strategic Plan and identifying key zoning issues for the city.

"We got council’s blessing not to implement, but to explore and prepare a new draft of the new ordinance," said Lee Einsweiler, of Code Studio. "We've started in on the drafting process.”

Because Roswell's original code focused on zoning codes for new development on raw land, the challenge now becomes redeveloping in a city that is relatively "built-out." Property owners and developers are constantly trekking to city hall in a never-ending request for variances and rezoning requests.

The Unified Development Code Diagnostic Report issued in October seeks to change "development regulations to help make Roswell more economically competitive as well as more attractive to a broader range of new employers and residents."

As an effort to create a "lifelong" community - meaning the needs of residents are met from birth to death - the following nine key changes are a major part of Code Studio's focus:

  1. More mixed use development needed
  2. Housing diversity - attracting the kinds of housing that make infill and redevelopment appealing.
  3. Placemaking - general public realm improvements
  4. Stormwater issues - better integration and management.
  5. Parking - include shared parking and figure out the right quantity of spaces as the area becomes more walkable.
  6. Connectivity - infill development should do a better job connecting people in ways other than driving.
  7. Development review process - make sure rules are understood so the review process can focus on quality.
  8. Zoning map changes - clean up a muddled zoning map to align all zoning requirements for each specific area.
  9. Create an all-around easier to use zoning document - make it easier for property owners and developers to read and understand.

Right now, the consultants are focused on the first of four pieces in the unified development code: residential zoning.

"The majority of the community will have the same rules; we're talking mostly about the corridors [regarding changes]," said Einsweiler.

The current set of residential districts do not allow or encourage a mix of housing types and lot sizes, according to the diagnostic report. Founders Mill and Martin's Landing are some of the very few neighborhoods which provide a diverse mix of housing options. New zoning would enable redevelopment to include carriage houses and cottage courts, among others.

But only in specific areas.

"Based on the community's desire to maintain the character and intensities in existing neighborhoods, it is not at this time recommend remapping existing single-family neighborhoods to accommodate any substantial additional density," states the report.

Einsweiler also emphasizes he doesn't foresee any five story residential allowances on the zoning map draft initially either, something many local residents worried about during the Groveway rezoning earlier this year. If eventually permitted by the city, he says, they most likely won't be allowed anywhere in the historic district.

Rezoning in Roswell will probably go under a moratorium early in 2013 while locals and developers get a chance to discuss ideas and give the city input during the zoning ordinance draft phases.

Consultants plan to present the first draft of the residential zoning redo to the Roswell City Council in February, after which they'll begin the commercial zoning phase, followed by general standards, such as parking and landscaping, and then finally, the review process. Einsweiler said he hopes his firm will be done with the entire draft by mid-summer. The council could make revisions and approve it as early as next fall.

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