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  • Zoning changes designed to facilitate smart growth, water conservation

    Oct 19, 2017 | Read More News
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    The Pima County Board of Supervisors at the Oct. 17 meeting approved a pair of zoning code amendments designed to promote more efficient land use in residential zones and water conservation. 

    The first change amended development standards in mixed dwelling and multiple residence zoned areas to allow for greater density single-family home development.homes

    The changes were implemented in response to dwindling market demand for attached multi-family housing in recent years. In addition, smaller, detached residences can provide more affordable starter homes and the types of housing that many younger and first-time home buyers want. 

    The zones subject to change previously had larger lot requirements for single-family residences than for multi-family dwellings within the same zone. The amendment has reduced the required lot area for single-family residences to match that for multi-family, permitting smaller, single-family detached residences in these zones. 

    These zoning changes can help to promote the development of vacant and under-utilized urban parcels. 

    “Higher density housing promotes transit opportunities, curbs sprawl, and more efficiently utilizes infrastructure and land,” said Carla Blackwell, Director of Development Services. “This change does that as well as responds to the changing market for housing.” 

    Specific changes include: 

    • Slightly increase the maximum lot coverage for main buildings while still maintaining sufficient space for drainage, open space, vegetation, solar access and other purposes
    • Reduce the distance between multiple dwelling buildings to the minimum required by building code standards to allow more flexible design
    • Replace "lot" standards with "site" standards wherein the site is the overall development such as a subdivision
    • Promote more consistent wording among the five zones

    The second change the Board of Supervisors approved was an amendment to Rezoning Site Analysis Requirements concerning how new development conserves water. The changes coincide with the Water Resource Element policies established in the Pima Prospers Comprehensive Plan. 

    The included water policy is intended to protect ecosystems that are dependent upon shallow groundwater and also to reduce subsidence. The amendment revised the method by which site specific water conservation measures are identified to accomplish this goal. The revised requirements also streamline the rezoning process.

    This has been accomplished in three main ways. 

    • Reducing the area in which the most burdensome requirements apply to those with the greatest potential for impacts. This was a Board-adopted policy change reducing the buffer around sensitive areas from five to one mile. 
    • Having staff provide the water demand and impacts analysis at the rezoning stage rather than requiring the applicant to do so. This analysis establishes the water conservation performance measures which the applicant must adhere to at the development phase. Applicants may provide better information if they disagree with staff. 
    • Shifting the identification of specific water conservation measures from the time of rezoning to the time of development allows the applicant to fully consider conservation measure design in detail with the latest methods and conditions

    “The policies needed some updating to streamline the process for identifying impacts and offsetting those with conservation measures,” said Blackwell.  “The changes will make it easier for both developers and staff to analyze.”
     
    County staff worked with stakeholders including the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Community Water Coalition, Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association, Metropolitan Pima Alliance and consultants.