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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mailbag: Mr. Connors Writes: Re: Minimum House Size debate

(Ed.note: This was posted under the audio and I have posted it separately for better visibility.)

I should not have listened to parts of this recording at bedtime last night. It is hard to fall asleep when there is steam coming out of your ears.

Roger Berg and Tom Cothard (at least I think those were the speakers) did a fine job thoroughly misrepresenting the purpose and effect of the minimum house size zoning provisions, their effect, and the negotiations I had with the developers regarding the application of those provisions to their subdivisions.

The city's Smart Growth Plan states that the lack of diversity in house sizes available in recent subdivisions was a problem. Roger Berg made it sound like the problem is only big houses are being built, so an older couple that wants a smaller house can't get one in the City of Evansville. Rubbish! The people who were being denied an opportunity to purchase a house in the City of Evansville were those who wanted larger houses--so says the Smart Growth Plan. The builders were choosing to build nothing but small houses in the new subdivisions. So the city stepped in and made sure that PARTS of new subdivision were set aside for larger houses. Recently built, smaller houses are available for sale today in subdivisions throughout the City of Evansville.

One of the concerns west-side residents had about the Westfield Meadows subdivision is that it might have a negative impact on the city's and school's financial situation (studies show housing generally does not generate enough tax base to support the additional public services that are necessary as the result of the additional population). I wonder how those west-side residents will feel if the city changes its tune and allows the builders to fill that subdivision with 1,100 square foot houses, as Roger Berg was advocating at the meeting last night.

Why don't the developers and builders apply for rezoning of parts of the subdivisions, rather than seek to eliminate the zoning provisions all together? In the Grand Orchard Estates subdivision, for example, it was the developers, not me, who wanted all of the houses to be zoned for a minimum house size of 1,600 square feet. They can change their mind and ask for a different mix of minimum house size zoning.

Only in Evansville is a 1,600 square foot house considered a big house. It is below average in size for a new house in the Madison area.

It was encouraging that plan commissioners like Jeff Vrstal and Bill Hammann, who were part of the Smart Growth planning process, were willing and able to articulate the problem that the minimum house size zoning proviisons were intended to address.

Bill Connors
Former Evansville City Administrator

2 comments:

  1. I was mistaken about something I wrote. I wrote that the developers of Grand Orchard Estates asked for all the single-family lots to be zoned with a miniumum house size of 1,600 square feet (LLR-12B), because that was my recollection. I still think they proposed that to me at one point in our discussions. But looking at the zoning map, it appears in the end, they asked for some lots to be zoned with a minimum house size of 1,450 square feet (LL-R12A).

    Bill Connors
    Former Evansville City Administrator

    ReplyDelete
  2. After a good night's sleep, my memory appears to be improving. I wish I had the color zoning proposal maps from Combs & Associates in front of me--it would speed up the recollection process tremendously. I now recall that in early developer proposals regarding the zoning of the Grand Orchard Estates subdivision, some of the single-family lots would have been zoned for a minimum house size of 1,300 square feet, some for a minimum of 1,450 square feet, and some for a minimum of 1,600 square feet. In the end, the developers decided to propose having no single-family lots with a minimum house size of 1,300 square feet, so all the single-family lots were zoned with a minimum house size of 1,450 square feet or 1,600 square feet.

    Bill Connors
    Former Evansville City Administrator

    ReplyDelete