Chandler eyes massive zoning code changes | Citynews … – Chandler Arizonan

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Overcast. Low 68F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: November 15, 2023 @ 6:35 pm
Here’s an example of a double wall. Developers say it’s easier to build a new wall than try and negotiate with existing neighbors about rebuilding their wall, which takes too much time. (City of Chandler)

Here’s an example of a double wall. Developers say it’s easier to build a new wall than try and negotiate with existing neighbors about rebuilding their wall, which takes too much time. (City of Chandler)
There’s little mystery why the cost of housing in Chandler is so high.
The city is a desirable place to live with a limited supply of homes.
The City of Chandler can’t create more land to build homes on but what it can do is relax some of the rules that some say keep the housing supply low.
Last month, the city Planning and Zoning Commission met in a work session to look at a wide range of adjustments to Chandler’s codes.
City staff has been fine-tuning the package for months. City Council first looked at them last spring.
Since then, there have been two council sub-committee meetings to do a deeper dive into the changes. Last month’s meeting was the first time Planning and Zoning got a look at the proposals.
City staffers said they will take the feedback they have received from both council and P&Z to build the final proposal that they will then release to the public.
One of those 25 suggested changes to city codes would make it easier to build an in-law suite in residents’ backyards, thereby increasing the supply of available housing.
“What they’re trying to add is more housing stock, like putting these back there with no short-term rentals to help alleviate the housing stock problem,” said Rick Heumann, the P&Z chairman and a former councilman.
In code, in-law suites or casitas are accessory dwelling units. In 2020, Council approved a zoning amendment that allowed guest quarters to be built on single-family lots.
However, they could not have built-in cooking facilities and homeowners did not like that limitation.
City staff has been hearing from residents who want a place where their aging parents or grown children could live somewhat independent lives, but still have the support of family close by.
“All the things that they could do today, whether it’s a detached workshop, a guest quarters for mother-in-law to stay in and do all the cooking in the house … is the same,” said Kevin Mayo, the city’s planning administrator.
“The only difference in this code is that you’re going to put a kitchen in, you have to provide an apartment [parking] space.”
Those units cannot be used for short-term rentals, Mayo said.
Many of the suggested code adjustments have to do with housing and parking. Another proposed change would address a problem that is unique to Chandler.
Some of the single-family homes near downtown Chandler are zoned for multi-family housing.
“If one of these properties identified, if their home burned down and they wanted to rebuild a single-family home, they would be required to get a use permit or rezone their property in order to build what is existing there,” said Lauren Schumann, the city planner.
Most residents are not happy when told after going through such a tragedy that they need a permit to rebuild exactly what was there before the fire. Staff is suggesting that be changed.
Schumann said that in the early 1960s, Chandler updated its zoning map. Many properties at the time had multiple buildings on them, possibly servant quarters. The city decided to give those areas a multifamily designation.
“In order to preserve some of our historic neighborhoods in and around the downtown area, we do want to limit it at a 12,000-square-foot lot size,” Schumann said.
“Because when you start to get to lots that big, it’s feasible to be able to build more than one residential unit.”
Another proposed change deals with parking in multifamily complexes. Developers have been arguing the city requires too much parking. Staff looked at what other cities require and decided the developers were wrong.
“We’re right in the middle of requiring parking,” Schumann said. “We are not requesting to increase the amount of parking per bedroom but to require guest parking.”
The proposal would require .25 guest parking spaces per unit. Heumann was in favor of that, noting that with the high price of housing in Chandler, more people are living in each unit.
Here are the rest of the proposals under consideration:
• Allow shipping containers to be used as a building material. They would be required to have additional material and be compatible with surrounding area.
• Reduce setbacks in the northern half of the city without going through rezoning process.
• Allow staff to consider more free-standing pads at retail centers, which could mean more drive-in businesses. A survey by city staff in Mesa – where residents are battling over excessive numbers of drive-thru eateries – found that Chandler and Scottsdale have strict rules on drive-thrus limiting them to only 5% and 4% of all land, respectively,
• Allow for a second, and shorter, drive-thru lane for online orders only. No menu board would be allowed.
• Drive-thru businesses can add a second lane, but the first lane must be the minimum length of 150 feet.
• Allow developers to build up to 55 feet without getting a mid-rise overlay. It is currently 45 feet.
• Allow staff to waive the requirement for mechanical screening on rooftops where it makes sense. These are walls around equipment so they can’t be seen from the street.
• Allow businesses to place a “For Lease” or “Space Available” banner on an unoccupied building for one year before permit would need to be renewed.
• Murals are not currently addressed in city code. The proposal would add a code for them, saying there can be no commercial messaging. If there is, then it follows under the rules for signage.
• Allow staff to decrease the parking required for medical buildings in some cases.
• Change the parking required for flex industrial from one space per 1,000 square feet, to two spaces per 1,000 square feet.
• Revise the uses permitted in non-residential properties, such as cloud kitchens, film studios and adult day centers.
• Begin enforcing the use permit renewal. It’s currently not in zoning codes.
• Allow businesses that just want to sell beer and wine to do so without getting a use permit. City currently requires that.
• Eliminate the requirement that off-street parking must be connected even if it goes into rear yards. This has led to some yards being completely paved over.
• Change the rules for home businesses. This is designed to help people who give piano lessons, or massages, etc. Motor vehicle, animal and medical services would still be banned.
• Reduce setback requirements for swimming pools from 5 feet to 3 feet.
• Allow larger ramadas in backyards. Currently, they are limited to 150 square feet. Mayo said many of the nice ramadas sold in stores are larger than that and homeowners are upset when they’re told they will have to split it in two or get rid of it.
• Require that new developments abutting residential areas have at least a 6-foot wall measured from the highest point within 5 feet of the wall.
• Prohibit double walls. Sometimes, developers find it easier to build a new wall than deal with existing neighbors and getting their permission to rebuild an older wall.
There was concern that since the city can’t force someone to allow a new wall to be built, they may have no choice but to accept a double wall.
• Change Chandler codes to align with the Federal Communications Commission on satellite dish regulations.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve processed this amount of code amendments,” Schumann said. “Generally it’s chickens or it’s data centers.
A lot of the code proposals that we’re requesting today, it’s policy that we do in house, but we don’t have somewhere to point to and tell a zoning administrator, ‘thou shalt because it says it here.’”
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