Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ordinance BL2008-115: “Split” Duplex Bill

This ordinance by Councilman Tygard would allow “duplexes” to be built as two separate structures on a single lot. The NNDF membership has voted to oppose to this fundamental change in the definition of “two-family” structures to allow the construction of two detached structures rather than one single structure with two units. This change is contrary to our basic premise of a duplex, which Webster’s dictionary defines as a two-family structure. We are concerned this change will increase the number of tear-downs in existing neighborhoods. In effect it allows for a doubling of the number of structures in neighborhoods zoned R and on grandfathered duplex lots in RS districts. In time it is likely that owners will request sub-division of these lots creating a confusing patchwork of sub-standard lots through existing neighborhoods. The current practice of building duplexes attached by a wall is the result of an “interpretation” of the Code by the Zoning Administrator; it was not as a result of a specific text change request by the Council. We are not aware of any compelling need for this text change. There are a number of questions as to how this ordinance will be applied by Codes and Planning: Will there be curb cuts for each structure? How will lot subdivision be handled? How will interior lots be subdivided? How will this affect lot comparability for other subdivisions? How will this affect historic districts? What will neighborhoods housing patterns look like with separate structures? We believe a better approach would be for the Council to correct what we believe is a “misinterpretation” of the zoning code by requiring all duplexes to have a common interior wall, which was the previous requirement.

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