Apr 8, 2021 Council / Planning Commission Joint Meeting

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A few weeks back (HERE), the council had a work session to try to collect the ideas that all 5 members wanted the council to explore. Many of those ideas centered around zoning, developments, and various other building regulations. Given that, we decided on a joint meeting with the planning commission to help clarify some of those ideas.

The topics included four areas I believe are concerns for many residents; Lot dimensions within the various residential zones, PUD negotiating, Accessory building requirements, and the notorious "40 acre rule".

Some history

Over the past 5-6 years, our development rate has gone skyward.

  • 2016 -> 122 houses
  • 2017 -> 189 houses
  • 2018 -> 157 houses
  • 2019 -> 290 houses
  • 2020 -> 354 houses

What is a Planned Unit Development (PUD)?

In order for a new house to be built, that house and lot generally must comply with various rules the city puts in place for the zoning category it's located within. An example of this is the minimum distance between the side of the building and the lot line. That number can vary depending on the zoning category. In the case of a larger development going in, it may be hard for the developer to meet all the zoning requirements ,especially if there are a number of curved streets and/or other geography that hinders it. To give them an alternative, the PUD exists. The PUD provides a way for the city and developer to negotiate so that, hopefully, both sides come out ahead. If there are lots in that development that fall short of a requirement, the city can ask for something else to compensate.

The majority of our developments end up going the PUD route.

Lot Dimensions

We ended up spending quiet a bit of time on this topic. I believe the idea was to increase some of the quality aspects of new developments by increasing a couple of the minimums. What was decided was to increase the side (7.5 to 10ft) and front (25 to 30ft) setbacks. While this likely won't have any significant impact (since most developments go the PUD route) it was hoped that this might raise the starting point of negotiations.

PUD Ideas

Unfortunately, the outcome of a PUD negotiation isn't something that's easily measured. i.e. What did we get in return for allowing 10 homes to violate the side minimum distance?

Being an engineer, I like to measure things. Subjective concepts such as "more trails", "larger setbacks" may imply things are improving... unless we gave up too much to get those. I believe in general, the group wanted more aggressive negotiations (especially given our new home numbers above) but they also wanted some way to quantify what we got for what we gave up, and that is no small task.

Accessory building requirements

We currently have what I would consider to be a restrictive accessory building ordinance. There are basically 2 numbers that matter here; number of buildings and total area. You are allowed one accessory building (over 200 sq ft) per lot whether you have 1 acre or 8. The total area has a similar problem. There was a general consensus to significantly improve both of these numbers.

40 acre rule

This is a topic I was pretty sure the council and the planning commission wouldn't agree on. Keep in mind the commission's focus is on aspects around planning. And perfect planning on the city's part means not allowing anything that doesn't involve large developments and scheduling those developments in order. This is exactly why the 40 acre rule was put in place.

The 40 acre rule is very simply a limit on how small a newly created lot can be without sewer while still allowing a new house. Most cities set this at 10 acres. Dayton set it to 40.

If you haven't figured it you yet, what's good for the city versus freedom don't always go hand in hand.

Previous councils have routinely stated they wanted to fix this rule. And they had the votes to fix this (all 5 most of the time). In reality they didn't want to fix this, or... it would have been fixed.

A fact to keep in mind is, Dayton must show the Met Council a plan that results in an average of 3 houses per acre of sewered land. Land that is NEVER to be sewered doesn't factor into that (hint, hint).

In my opinion the 40 acre rule makes it almost impossible to have anything BUT developments with... 3 houses per acre, 3 houses per acre, 3 houses per acre (where does that rural characteristic come in there?). And since only developers can afford 40 acres in Dayton (non swamp land anywhere from $800k on up), it should come as no surprise we're stuck at 3 houses per acre. The other issue is that if you are decades from getting sewer you're likely to have a hard time selling your land.

Changing this to 10 acres is only a start. Personally I believe we can beat that. And, contrary to some of the rumors out there, even the Met Council is ok with pre-sewered lots down to 2.5 acres (HERE) as long as the home placement won't preclude future sewering. Aside from this, if we declare an area will NEVER get sewer, there are no mandates.

In the end, 3 of the planning commission members didn't sound very enthusiastic. I'm pretty sure 3-4 of the council is.

One of the things to watch out for is that any area that subdivides doesn't block sewer when it's available (meaning, it can still get to the other side without any condemnation).


So... lots of ideas and it'll be a few months before these get into our ordinances, but it's a good start.