Tool For Neighborhoods To Pushback On Development Could Pit Neighbors Against Each Other

Councilman Walter Hunt, who sponsored the contextual overlay district, which passed last Tuesday. Credit: Bobby Allyn

Councilman Walter Hunt, who sponsored the contextual overlay district, which passed last Tuesday. Credit: Bobby Allyn

The contextual overlay law passed last week by Metro Council could pit neighbor against neighbor. The the new law came after thousands wrote city council members complaining about new development.

It lets neighbors block my block restrict development that happens beside them by forming the boundaries of a district and applying for the special overlay. In essence, the district looks at homes to the left and right of a proposed home and makes sure the new one fits the flow of the block.

But Daynise Couch of the community group Organized Neighbors of Edgehill says getting a single block to agree can often be challenging, and it can quickly turn ugly.

“And so there could be some very sort of sticky points of contention if you get a couple of neighbors who want to keep things as they are, and then a neighbor sort of in the middle who wants to see growth,” Couch said.

Some realtors say the overlay tool could  freeze property values and restrict what homeowners can do to their own homes.

Here’s the law’s description of how to apply for one:

A. Application for a Contextual Overlay District. Lots included in a district must be contiguous and continuous throughout the residential portion of a complete block face(s).

B. Historic Overlay District. A contextual overlay shall not be applied in an adopted historic overlay district. Adoption of a historic overlay district shall supersede an adopted contextual overlay and only the requirements of the historic overlay district shall apply.

C. Planning Commission Recommendation. The planning commission shall review a proposed contextual overlay district application for conformance with the General Plan. The planning commission shall act to recommend approval, approval with conditions or disapproval of the application. Within ten working days of an action, the commission’s resolution shall be transmitted in writing to the applicant, the metro clerk, the zoning administrator and all other appropriate governmental departments.

D. Council Consideration. The metropolitan council shall consider an ordinance establishing a contextual overlay district according to the procedures of Article III of this chapter (Amendments). All property owners within and proximate to a proposed contextual overlay district shall be notified according to the procedures of Article XV of this chapter.

E. Final Site Plan Approval. For property located within a contextual overlay district, a final site plan application shall be submitted for review and approval by the Zoning Administrator in a manner consistent with the procedures of Section 17.40.170A. The applicant is required to submit all necessary information to the Zoning Administrator and to certify the accuracy of the submitted information.

F. Modifications to Design Standards Not Permitted. Contextual Overlay Districts shall be adopted with the standards outlined in 17.36.470 (Design guidelines). Modifications to these standards shall not be permitted. Variance requests shall follow the process outlined in Chapter 17.40.

G. Changes to a Contextual Overlay District Boundary. A proposed change in the geographic boundary of a contextual overlay district on the official zoning map shall be considered by the council according to the procedures of Article III of this chapter (Amendments).


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