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Decatur could get tougher commercial zoning ordinance

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Getting a commercial building permit in Decatur soon may be more difficult.

The Decatur Planning Commission will consider during its meeting Tuesday amending the city's zoning ordinance regarding commercial structures.

If approved by the commission and later by the City Council, the changes would grant greater oversight power to the Decatur Building Department.

Specific changes

Specific changes would require builders to submit a minimum of 25 copies of their site plans at least 21 days prior to the Planning Commission meeting to consider the plans.

They also would require that all site plans be prepared by a licensed engineer and include a boundary survey prepared by a licensed surveyor.

Other changes would require that developers building on Beltline Road, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, provide ingress/egress access via parallel side roads that must pass city inspection.

The changes would likely increase the number of builders required to get site plan
approval by altering the site-plan ordinance to include all non-residential structures built on any city collector, arterial or major street. The Decatur Planning Department maintains a list of city street classifications to determine which roads qualify.

Building Department Director Jimmy Brothers said most of the requirements are not new to Decatur, but the proposed amendments represent the first time they've been combined in a comprehensive ordinance.

"The Building Department requires site plan review now, and has for years and years," he said. "This will formalize what the minimum requirements are for the submittal and will evolve into a system with a heightened level of review."

Other changes in the ordinance would require landscaping in parking lots with 15 or more spaces and lighting in lots with 50 or more spaces.

They also would require that site plans showing traffic circulation, drainage plans, number of parking spaces, loading and unloading zones, and waste-bin locations before the plans are submitted.

Brothers said the changes will ensure more harmonious development between commercial and residential neighbors and ensure smoother traffic flow throughout the city.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers.

Off-street parking

During the same meeting, the Planning Commission will consider changing the city code to require all residential structures have at least two off-street parking spaces per unit. Currently, some residential structures are required only to provide one off-street parking space.

Brothers said the proposed zoning ordinance changes are not retroactive, but a large-scale change in the use of a property could force a business owner to bring the property up to the new code.

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