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The Buena Vista Board of trustees voted during its Tuesday, Nov. 27 meeting to approve a new city ordinance No. 21 amending the Buena Vista Unified Building Code to allow for duplex structures within city limits. The amendment concerns side setback, lot area and lot width for single family attached dwellings in R-1 and R-2 zones. It also adopts new use regulations for two -family dwellings.

Traditionally, two-family dwellings (duplexes) consisted of two units in one building on one lot. The amendment will allow for a duplex structure to consist of two separate units with a common property line, but existing on two separate lots. This newer construction model is more common today, but Buena Vista’s current building code does not address this design.

The approval of the amendment allows for duplexes in the R-1 and R-2 zones, but calls for specific design standards to ensure these units blend with single-family neighborhoods. The change results from the town’s planning department and the Planning Commission’s recognition of the need for affordable housing that blends into Buena Vista neighborhoods. While they consisting predominately of single-family homes, they need to fit with the appearance of single-family neighborhoods.

“It is our intent to try and allow for duplexes in neighborhoods that do have single-family homes,” said Buena Vista Principal Planner Mark Doering.

“The land use code should provide language that allows affordable housing to be integrated into the fabric of the community,” said Doering, who reassured those who may be concerned that two-family structures may disrupt the appearance of the neighborhoods in question. “To make sure they fit in better with single-family homes we have created [new design] standards.”

The new design standards, which will appear in section 3.21k of the Unified Development Code after the amendment takes place, will be applicable to all zones. The new code ensures that every two-family dwelling structure must be designed in a manner so it appears as one larger structure, not two separate dwellings. It also specifies that driveways leading to the street from each unit must be separate, and not exceed the width of two standard parking spaces.

The amended code also stipulates that utilities for two-family dwellings and single-family attached units must be installed separately. This means each unit will have its own separate lines entering the structure to provide water, sewer, electric, and gas.

The amendment to Ordinance No. 21 adds new language to the ordinance addressing the newer construction model of duplex structures (a model with a shared wall on the property line and each unit on its own lot), and allows for their construction.

The existing setback regulations require a buffer between the property line and structures on the lot. In order for a duplex to exist on two separate lots it must be allowed to share a common wall directly on the property line. To make this possible, the amendment aims to reduce setback for two family dwellings to a 0’ setback; meaning the structure can straddle the property line.

Ordinance No. 21 will require that a single unit be placed on a lot no smaller than 6,500 square ft. So, for a two-family households where each unit exists on its own lot, but share a common wall, each lot must be at least 6,500 square ft. Two family households on a single lot adhere to 13,000 square ft. minimum.

Ordinance No. 21 also addresses new lot width minimums. In R-1, a two-family dwelling on a single lot will require a minimum lot width of 100 ft, whereas a duplex on two separate lots will require 65 ft. per lot. In zone R-2, a duplex on a single lot must have a minimum lot width of 50 ft, or a width of 75 ft. per lot for a duplex on two lots.

In the R-1 zone, which extends from Crossman Avenue south to Meadow lane, and is bordered on the East side by Pleasant Avenue, single-family attached units will not be permitted. These dwellings are three or more consecutive units with a shared wall between each unit. The R-1 zone is considered a low-density residential area, and is not intended for high-density dwellings like single family attached units. These dwellings will be allowed in zone R-2, ideally in the downtown area.

The passage of amendments to Ordinance No. 21 allows for more affordable housing in Buena Vista neighborhoods, while still maintaining the traditional single-family structured neighborhoods already apparent in these areas.

The amendments to Ordinance No. 21 will take effect 30 days after the revised ordinance appears in print.

A map of Buena Vista’s zoning districts can be found on the Buena Vista Town Government website: