CodeNEXT is really two zoning codes. There is the form-based code built around transects intended for the walkable urban core, and a Euclidian code built around regulating uses and intended mostly for the "drivable" suburban areas. The Euclidian code mostly just carries forward our existing code. There are use tables just like today, where you can look up your proposed use and read off the zones in which it is allowed. Some of the use names have changed, but they’re all there. The Euclidian code mostly keeps the same site development regulations (such as impervious cover limits), but has minimal form-based regulations.
CodeNEXT's Euclidian code has 11 residential zones, compared to the current code’s 16. The new zones have names such as “Low Density Residential (LDR),” “Low Medium Density Residential (LMDR)” and “Very High Density Residential (VHDR).” Zone names no longer refer to “single family” or “multi-family,” but there are still zones that allow only single-family. “Low Density Residential (LDR)” is the new SF-2 and “Low Medium Density Residential (LMDR)” is the new SF-3.
[Aside: The acronyms bewilder me. I can’t keep the various combinations of “L” “M” “D” and “R” straight. On the chance that it’s not just me, I suggest leaving “Rural Residential (RR)” as is and numbering the rest of the zones R-1 to R-9. That would make the R-3 zone the new SF-3, allowing a catchier answer to the question, “Where did SF-3 go?”]
So what did they do to SF-3?
- the minimum lot size, 5,750 sf, is unchanged;
- the minimum street frontage, 50 feet, is unchanged;
- the rear, side street and side setbacks are unchanged;
- the maximum impervious cover and building cover are unchanged;
- the maximum height is unchanged;
- duplexes are still allowed only on 7,000 sf lots;
- accessory dwelling units are still allowed; and
- the McMansion ordinance, though tweaked, still applies to single-family homes in the urban core.
What has changed?
- front yard setbacks have been reduced from 25’ to 15’;
- the duplex rules have been tweaked (see below).
- the McMansion ordinance, as noted, has been tweaked (see below).
Let’s look at the last two in a little more detail.
Confusingly, a duplex is not called a duplex in the Euclidian code but is instead referred to as a “two-family residential use.” This is quite confusing because duplexes are called duplexes in the transect zones. What’s more, under current code, “two-family residential use” refers to an accessory dwelling unit!
Let’s just call a duplex a “duplex.”
The confusing name change aside, the duplex rules are mostly the same as current code’s. One perplexing change: the “two-family residential” regulation table (§ 23-4E-6350) gives a maximum floor area of “850 sf total or 550 sf on a second floor.” This appears to be some kind of massing restriction, but it is a dramatic and unnecessary shrinking of the allowable size of a duplex. [Ed. It is possible that these are holdover regulations meant for ADUs -- yet another reason to call duplexes "duplexes" rather than "two-family residential!"]
One positive change: the rules allow a lot to be subdivided along the demising wall. This will allow duplexes to be sold separately without having to create a complicated condo regime, which is today’s practice.
The McMansion ordinance.
The McMansion ordinance still only applies within the “urban core” where it applies today. It no longer appears as a separate set of regulations at the end of the zoning code, but is instead baked into the development regulations for each zone.
The regulations themselves carry forward the maximum floor-to-area ratio (40% or 2,300 sf) and the side-wall articulation requirements. But the regulations also have been tweaked:
- the complicated building tent is discarded; instead, the maximum floor-to-eave height has been reduced to 23’;
- the front setback is no longer dependent on the neighboring setbacks.
One troublesome change: the height of a building beyond 80’ of the front property line is limited to one story. This has a number of really bad consequences. First, it heavily penalizes deep lots, cutting in half the existing development rights on the rear of the property. Second, it makes flag lots uneconomical to develop since flag-lot homes are almost always setback more than 80’ from the front. And, third, it limits most ADUs to one story. A 40’-deep principal house will leave only 15’ for a two-story ADU after accounting for the 15’ front yard setback and 10’ required separation between the ADU and principal dwelling. Two-story ADUs will be feasible only on lots with a shallow principal house. The consultants had no mandate to make such a drastic reduction in entitlements, so this innovation should be removed.
Key takeaway: If you were hoping for some liberalization of SF-3 rules in the non-transect zones, you will be disappointed. The rules are virtually the same; the changes, if anything, reduce entitlements.
Addendum: I neglected to mention one other positive change: less parking. CodeNEXT reduces most parking requirements. The parking spaces required for a single-family home will be reduced from two to one, and for a duplex from four to two. Most houses will continue to be built with two parking spaces -- that's just the market demand -- but it will be easier to put up small houses on small lots where there's not a lot of excess room for car storage.
1"Euclidian" refers to Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company, the case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a zoning code based on the strict segregation of single-family, multi-family, commercial and industrial uses.
Disclaimer: The statements above are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions of any client or other person or organization. Please see the About Me section.