New rules – Decatur wants to define demolitions

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt April 25, 2014
Decatur City Hall

Decatur City Hall

Decatur City Commissioners during their April 21 meeting talked about how the city defines what a demolition is – or rather, how it doesn’t define it.

Planning Director Amanda Thompson said that there’s nothing on the city’s books about it.

“Currently the city does not have a formal adopted definition for demolition or structural demolition,” Thompson told commissioners. “We’ve have a longstanding policy of maintaining 50 percent of the original structure, and we did take a stab at writing that down back last fall when we were considering a moratorium on demolition.”

Commissioners voted against that moratorium, opting instead to address the issue of ongoing tear-downs of older homes as the city rewrites its zoning code to create a Unified Development Ordinance.

During the April 21 meeting, commissioner considered voting on an ordinance that would define a demolition as a project where the construction costs of improving a house exceed 50 percent of its fair market value. The proposal raised some concerns among commissioners and they decided to table it until their next meeting.

Here is the full text of the proposed definition:

Demolition: Complete removal of structure or a scope of construction (alteration, addition, renovation or reconstruction) of a structure where the cost of the construction exceeds 50 percent of  the fair market value of the structure at the date of permit request/submittal as determined by the  Building Official. Fair Market value determinations may be made using tax assessor records,  current appraisals, or recent sales information. The cost of the proposed construction may be determined by reviewing detailed, complete (turnkey) contracts from a qualified state licensed contractor or published standardized construction value data similar to that published by the International Code Council (ICC). Values for the purpose of this definition are exclusive of land  values.

Mayor Jim Baskett said he wanted to address concerns that a home renovation could easily exceed 50 percent of the fair market value, requiring homeowners to get a variance.

“What’s at issue here is whether or not you’re doing a relatively modest interior renovation, changing your kitchen, changing your bathroom and you maybe have reached that greater than 50 percent,” Baskett said. ” …  You’re going to come under this definition of being a demolition rather than a renovation  and you’re going to have to seek a variance to do what (you) want to do.”

City spokeswoman Casie Yoder said the city began crafting the new definition in response to variance requests for side yard setbacks.

Commissioners won’t vote on the Unified Development Ordinance until September at the earliest. Decaturish asked why the demolition rule is being considered separately from the UDO process.

Yoder said, “I think the concern is if this isn’t addressed now the variance requests would continue. The demolition rule is a way to address this specific ongoing issue rather than wait until the end of the UDO process this fall.”

Thompson said the city needs guidelines.

“We need a clarification of the demolition definition now so that renovations and new construction that occur between today and the end of September have rules to follow,” she said.

To see the draft of the proposed ordinance, click this link: Demolition Ordinance

To see the city staff report on the proposed ordinance, click this link: Staff Report

About Dan Whisenhunt

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