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Denison approves code changes for infill development

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
The city of Denison has approved a series of code amendments aimed at lowering barriers for infill development.

Some of the hurdles for development in existing neighborhoods across the Denison have been removed. During a meeting Monday night, the City Council approved a series of code amendments aimed at promoting infill development throughout the city.

The initiative comes after successful efforts by the city that led to extensive development on infill lots in recent years. However, after a half-decade, nearly all prime lots have been developed, leaving the city with more difficult parcels for development.

“We have had significant construction in our infill area — about 350 new homes — over the past five years,” Denison City Manager Jud Rex said, referring to the city’s affordable housing program. “For the most part, the lots that were available were low-hanging fruit that were pretty standard ... and were easy to build on.

“What we are hearing now from our developers is that the lots that are still available are funny-shaped, they are corner lots that are smaller than the code allows or there are other hindrances from a code perspective on what we can develop there.”

Under the new code, the city is allowing flexibility on some code requirements that would otherwise make these lots unable to be developed. With some parts of the code, the city is willing to relax requirements by up to 30 percent.

“Really what are trying to do is build in some flexibility into the code so that builders can continue to create affordable homes in the established neighborhoods of Denison,” Rex said.

In some cases, these requirements would include a reduction on the minimum home size. City staff said the new requirements would allow for homes to be build be as small as 650 square feet.

The changes are also designed to help create cohesive neighborhoods. In some cases, the current code would make the lots stand out compared to the existing neighborhood, which was built prior to the code.

As an example, Denison Planner Bill Medina referenced a home built on Main Street that sits just 15 feet from the front property line. If the empty lot next to it were to be developed, the home would need to be 10 feet further from the property line and would stand out from neighboring properties.

“It would be within code, and there is a lot of room there, but it would look out of place and would not feel right,” Medina said.

The proposed changes received a positive response from the council, but some members did voice concerns about how much flexibility these changes would give.

Council Member Brian Hander said he has some concern with changes that would allow for triplex or quad-plex development in areas where this may not fit.

Rex said that checks and balances would still be in place on both the staff and planning and zoning levels. However, the successful motion ultimately included a provision that would require a conditional use permit for triplex of quad-plex development, with the possibility of revisiting the topic at a later date.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.