City Council to vote on changes to zoning code


Changes are likely coming to the city of Delaware’s zoning code. During Monday’s meeting of the Delaware City Council, second readings were held on the first phase of a comprehensive update to the code that is expected to continue throughout 2024.

The first phase includes changes to six chapters in the code pertaining to platting, procedures, and new planned-unit districts (PUD). Speaking to the council during the meeting, Director of Planning and Community Development Sandra Pereira noted the last significant changes made to the city’s zoning code were two decades ago in 2003.

“Over the past 21 years, the city has changed dramatically, and unfortunately, the code hasn’t changed with the city,” Pereira said. “There have been a lot of amendments and bandaids and piecemeal procedures to try to make the existing code fit to some scenarios that have never specifically been addressed before. And, so, that’s created contradiction, confusion, and made a pretty heavy document.”

The Delaware Planning Commission previously approved the changes for recommendation to the council during its meeting on Jan. 17.

As outlined in a memo from Pereira to the council, the most significant changes proposed include:

Chapter 1111-subdivision regulations

• A preliminary plat will not be required when a subdivision consists of only one section, or when a project has an approved development plan, which will serve as the preliminary (or a development plan is running concurrently with the plat).

• Lot splits can be approved by (city) staff when being subsequently combined with another lot.

• Lot combinations, regardless of the number of lots, can be approved by city staff.

A change to the city charter will also be made to allow the Planning Commission to be the deciding body on plats.

Chapter 1125 – administration, powers, and duties

• Only the Planning Commission will review and approve conditional uses.

Chapter 1128 – appeals and variances

• Use variances would be removed.

• Updated variance approval criteria.

Chapter 1129 – procedures

• Preliminary development plans will be removed and not required.

• Development plans shall be a public hearing at both Planning Commission and City Council meetings but will be approved by resolution, not ordinance.

• Extension to development plan expiration can be granted by staff.

• Modifications are broken down into levels and may be granted by city staff or the Planning Commission.

• Certificates of occupancy for zoning are not currently required and all references to such will be removed.

Chapter 1130 – amendments

• Modify the sign-posting notification requirements for public hearings.

Chapter 1144 – PUD districts

• New PUD zoning will replace all overlays.

• Same process of rezoning to PUD and approval of development plan.

While presenting the proposed changes to the council, Pereira noted there are currently as many as 25 steps that must be taken for a development to be permitted. However, Pereira said that while some of the steps were often combined in an attempt to make the process easier, those attempts have led to variances in how the process impacts different proposals.

“Parts of it have been combined together, and you would see those coming through Planning Commission and City Council together … Those combinations were almost never the same,” Pereira said. “That was one of the issues that we saw when we were looking at this, that there was very little consistency in how the procedure would happen. So if someone wanted to bring forth a project, they wouldn’t automatically know that ok, this is step one, step two, and step three. It could be different every time.”

Pereira said that under the current procedure, completing all the steps to get to the permitting stage is typically a five or six-month process. Without combining some of the steps, she estimated the process could take upwards of eight months. Under the proposed changes, the process could be shortened to three months, particularly if the charter amendment is approved to allow the Planning Commission to be the deciding body on plats.

The proposed changes will go to a third reading at the next council meeting, scheduled for Monday, March 25.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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