Final draft of new Cape Girardeau zoning code ready

Sunday, December 20, 2009

After months of intense work, the final draft of Cape Girardeau's attempt to rewrite its zoning code is ready and will be subject of two meetings early next month that will help decide if the plan moves ahead.

At 180 pages, the draft is the first comprehensive overhaul of city zoning rules since the 1960s. A key aspect of the new code, city planner Sarah Wallace said, is that each classification is a stand-alone section. Allowed land uses and restrictions are spelled out in detail. In the current "stacked" approach, classifications of similar uses go from the most restrictive to least restrictive, incorporating each use as it goes along.

But for developers, engineers and landlords, the most important part of the new code will be the effect on their businesses. To make sure there are no surprises, the city has held meetings with individuals and small groups to explain the changes as they have been drafted.

The most contentious part of the redesign is stricter limits on the number of people who can share a rental property. The city currently allows five unrelated people to live together in one house: three tenants and two roomers. More are allowed in some apartments. The new limit would be three tenants, repealing the allowance for roomers. A discussion of the residential code revisions brought nearly a full house, mostly landlords, to a February meeting of the city Planning and Zoning Commission.

To placate some of those concerns, the code allows some areas to be set aside where more than three tenants will be allowed if there is off-street parking for each extra tenant.

The city will hold two open house meetings next month to discuss the draft. After the second open house, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing and likely vote to send the package to the city council.

One goal, Wallace said, is to bring order to a zoning map where special-use permits and rezoning approvals have piled up.

"One of the things we are looking at is the current zoning map [that has] so many uses sprinkled around that are not compatible with the existing uses," she said. "We are trying to work with property owners on the educational aspect of it."

The overhaul won't stop any existing activity, which will be "grandfathered." Major changes in the code include:

* Five new zoning districts including agricultural; rural estate for developments with lots larger than 1 1/2 acres; high-density multifamily for up to 30 units per acre; residential urban mixed density for areas with both apartments and single-family homes; and neighborhood commercial for small stores and offices.

* Two new overlay districts: increased occupancy for areas where landlords will be allowed to rent to more than three unrelated people and neighborhood conservation to stabilize and revitalize older areas. The two new overlay districts would be in addition to existing districts for historic preservation and adult entertainment.

* Removal of the C-4 "planned commercial district" designation.

Along with the revised code, the city has prepared maps showing both the implementation of the new classifications to city property and the location of four proposed increased-occupancy overlay districts. Objections are more likely over the areas designated for higher occupancy than the concept of limiting the number of tenants, said Jason Coalter, who has invested in more than 100 residential properties in the central and southern sections of Cape Girardeau.

The proposed high-occupancy areas include all residential property east of Beaudean Lane and south of Highway 74; residences north of Capaha Park from Rose Street to Wayne Street and east of Perry Avenue to Southeast Missouri State University's campus; residential property on West End Boulevard east to Benton Street between Independence Street and Broadway and residential areas north of Pearl Street between North Middle Street and Chestnut Street.

Some of those designations won't work, Coalter said, and areas that would logically be part of an increased-occupancy area have been left off. The area north of Capaha Park isn't built for lots of extra cars, he said. An area that should be included -- where Coalter has many of his investment properties -- is between Sprigg Street and West End Boulevard, south of Independence Street to Highway 74.

Despite that issue, he said "the overlay district is definitely a great idea to target the roomers concern."

The designated zones are open to discussion, said Ken Eftink, director of planning services for the city.

"This was something we put together for discussion purposes," he said. "Obviously there needs to be some tweaking of the map."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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