Sherman looks to close patio home loophole

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission is recommending code changes aimed at eliminating loop holes in the city's patio home ordinance.

Following loopholes and misuse by developers, Sherman is looking to tighten its patio home ordinance. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a series of changes to the ordinance Tuesday night aimed at preventing future misuse  and keeping within the spirit and scope of the ordinances purpose.

The update came as a series of wide-spread updates to city zoning code, including fence requirements and outdoor storage container limitations, that are being recommended by city staff.

"I am sorry you couldn't binge watch anything this weekend because of the 180-page updates to the zoning ordinance," said Rob Rae, Sherman director of development services.

While there is not a clear definition of a patio home, many of the developments feature smaller homes located in clusters on smaller lots with limited yard space and sometimes zero lot lines. The developments have some comparisons to condominiums and townhouses.

Under Sherman's current ordinance, a specific use permit for a patio home will allow the developer more flexibility in development and reduced setbacks and side yards.

While city officials said the original purpose for this was to spur development on smaller lots, this is not how developers ultimately used the ordinance. In recent months, the city has seen a high number of permit requests for patio home designation for traditionally-sized lots.

This has led to the creation of many up-sized homes being built on standard lots that normally would not be allowed under the ordinance.

""What that ended up doing in these six developments we have," Rae said, highlighting several subdivisions where this has taken place," is it changes their foot print."

The trend has not gone unnoticed by city leaders, and the council tasked city staff with updating the code to fix this loophole in late 2020. Since then, a task force has been create to draft these changes. Earlier this month, the city council asked for a progress report on the expected update.

Under the proposed changes, the maximum width of a patio home is 50 feet. The homes on these lots will also not be allowed to a living area greater than 2,500 square feet.

Developers of large numbers of patio homes in a single development will also be required to dedicate a portion of the development to open space. The proposal sets this requirement at 5 percent for developments of more than five units, and 10 percent for those greater than 50. The initial staff recommendation put a higher threshold on this, but the planning and zoning commission felt this left some loopholes for abuse.

City staff also presented plans for a new zoning district specific to patio home use, but are not recommending this as the use is not a part of the city's master plan.

"If we did just come in and change that up, developers could come in and request that without guidance from the master plan," Rae said.

With the recommendation of approval from P&Z, the updates are expected to be presented to the city council some time in May.