New city rule? Tree in every yard

By Amanda Lehmert
Greensboro, NC (July 31, 2009)- Proposed city development standards would require a tree in front of every new house and would limit the growth of large churches in neighborhoods. Greensboro’s recommended new land rules also would require property owners to explain whether they have worked with neighbors who might oppose a rezoning. But the rules stop short of requiring developers to meet with residents over controversial redevelopments. Those requirements are just some of the changes in an overhaul of the city’s land development standards. A draft of the new ordinance could be before the city planning and zoning boards in October.

The proposed changes could go before the City Council this fall. If approved, they would take affect Jan. 1, 2010. The new rules were developed with the help of a consultant and were debated by a volunteer committee. The draft regulations encourage developments that mix residential and commercial uses and high-density residential development, like apartments, along major roadways with access to public transportation.
For the first time, the proposed regulations also would require developers to plant at least one tree when they build a new home. City Planning Director Dick Hails said the issue was a source of debate among members of the ordinance development advisory committee, which is made up of real estate representatives and neighborhood advocates.
Other proposed regulations put restrictions on mega-churches and large schools. The new land development rules would require those types of large assembly places to have access to a major roadways and would regulate off-site parking. Churches have enjoyed freedom to expand into neighborhoods, said Marsh Prause of the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress. Some have grown to dwarf the single-family homes around them. “They have tried to clamp down on that, and that is a very good thing for neighborhoods,” Prause said.
Neighborhood representatives also pushed for standards that would require developers to meet with residents and explain their plans before they go to the zoning commission to request a rezoning. The change was unpopular with developers.
After much debate, the advisory committee recommended a compromise. The draft ordinance requires developers to submit a report to the city that details what kind of contact they have had with residents surrounding a proposed rezoning. Even though the proposed rule stops short of requiring a developer to meet with neighbors, it is still is an improvement over the previous ordinance, said David Wharton, a member of the advisory committee that helped rewrite the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would require bike racks and bus shelter space for some developments. It also would require that new homes be built in a similar way to existing residences in established neighborhoods. “You won’t have a property on a vacant lot in an older neighborhood end up with this McMansion that is totally out of character,” said Mary Skenes, a member of the advisory committee.
Related Resources:
Greensboro News Record- New City Rule? Tree in Every Yard
Greensrboro Land Development Ordinance Rewrite