City considers unified development ordinance


HUNTINGBURG — Officials have reorganized the city’s multiple zoning and development standards ordinances into one unified and easier-to-use ordinance.

The proposed unified development ordinance, or UDO, is meant to have a more logical layout, to make it easier to find all the rules and standards that need to be followed for a particular development.

“It's more about how it’s organized than it is changing what’s in the traditional code of ordinances,” City Planning Director Paul Lake explained. “It essentially updates and changes the format from the code of ordinances that Huntingburg has operated under since the mid- to late 90s, into a format that's more understandable and easier to work with in 2021.”

The UDO draft was presented at last week’s Huntingburg Advisory Planning Commission. The Huntingburg Common Council and Huntingburg Board of Public Works and Safety also called meetings at the same time to see the presentation.

The public will have a chance to comment on the UDO at the hearing that will held at the plan commission’s Feb. 22 meeting. The hearing will start at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 508 E. Fourth St.

Communities have been moving to the UDO format in recent years for organizational reasons.

“There were times when I would get phone calls [in which] somebody asked me what it would take to build something in a certain zoning category. It shouldn't take me two to three days in a conversation with the city attorney to figure out what that is and where the recommendations and requirements are,” Lake said. “And that isn’t unique to us. It was just the old style of organizing an ordinance. It's just the way you did it.”

The UDO will make that process much simpler.

“If I'm looking at building a home in a residential neighborhood, currently I may have to come through 60 or 70 different pages to find [all] the requirements,” Lake said. “In this [UDO], it says here are all the regulations that apply to a single-family home and a residential one. And at the bottom of the page, it'll say additional development standards are in this chapter.

“It tells you exactly where to go, rather than me having to guess where it's at.”

With this update, some minor ordinance changes have been proposed. “It’s subtle changes,” Lake said. “It's more a tweaking of what was in the old ordinance, while at the same time modernizing its appearance and how it's organized.”

Lake shared some examples.

For instance, “there are certain things that were referenced in our old ordinance for different types of signs. Those signs may not even technologically exist anymore,” he said. “So some things have changed.”

A couple new zoning categories have been proposed. One of them is a third commercial category for neighborhoods. “We can do the low intensity commercial and high intensity commercial. And we will have one that's essentially neighborhood commercial, which is not as extreme, things that are more appropriate within a neighborhood,” Lake said.

The other new category is called institutional/parks, “so that we actually can call out our parks and things like that,” he said.

With the city being surrounded by floodplains, officials are making sure to look at drainage calculations for larger developments and commercial developments. “They were looked at previously,” Lake said. “This just says we're still going to continue looking at that, because water can be a problem when it rains hard.”

Also proposed is a change in parking space requirements for developments.

“Our parking requirements under the old ordinance were excessive. The number of spaces per square foot were probably on the high side,” Lake said. “But that's the way it was always done in the 70s, 80s and 90s. So those were [tweaked to be] a little more real-world in what the expectations are for that.”

After the Feb. 22 public hearing, plan commission members will decide if they will recommend that the common council, the body that enacts ordinances, adopt the UDO. If they make that recommendation, the council could start its deliberations on the ordinance at its March 9 meeting.

A draft copy of the proposed UDO is online at the City of Huntingburg’s website, “It doesn't have all the typos and everything out of it yet; we're still finding stuff,” Lake said. “But 99.8% of it is complete in there.” A copy will be available later this week at the Huntingburg Clerk-Treasurer’s Office for the public to review.

Updating and organizing the city’s development ordinances into one UDO will help the community in the long run.

“Just like the old core code of ordinance, the UDO is essentially the tool that a city or town would use to implement its comprehensive plan,” Lake said. “It's how you guide development.”

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