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New zoning ordinance contains urban design elements
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The new form-based zoning ordinance the Covington City Council will consider adopting in June collapses several of the city's more unwieldy zoning districts into districts that allow a greater degree of flexibility for developers.

The new ordinance also includes a number of urban design elements that city officials hope will result in a greater consistency among developments along the same street or corridor as well as a greater amount of public space, including sidewalks.

"The overall goal was that we want to make our community pedestrian-friendly and we want to control sprawl," said Covington Mayor Kim Carter. "We want to focus on aesthetically pleasing buildings."

Michelle Stiebling, planning and zoning director for the city of Covington, said the new ordinance will give more emphasis to floor-to-area ratios, which are used to calculate density and maximum lot coverage, as opposed to the setbacks used to guide developments under the current ordinance.

Stiebling said the ordinance also streamlines the process by which developers receive approval of modifications to their building permits.

"You can really get into a cycle of continually coming back for modifications," said Stiebling of the current process, which requires a public hearing for special use petitions.

Aaron Fortner, a principal with the city planning firm Market and Main, which is advising the city in the overhauling of its ordinance, said the new ordinance should make it easier for the city's staff to administer as it makes several things clearer and easier to understand.

"There are newer ways to say things or define things," Fortner said.

All developments will be grandfathered in under the new ordinance, which would only apply to developments or modifications proposed after its adoption.

"You won't see any changes until someone re-develops," Fortner said.

Among the changes to the zoning ordinance are current residential zoning districts single family (R1) and scenic and historic preservation (SP) which will be collapsed into the proposed district neighborhood residential 1 (NR1), which allows for homes to cover 35 percent of the total lot area.

The single family zoning districts R2 and R3 will be collapsed into the new district neighborhood residential 2 (NR2), which allows for houses to cover 70 percent of the total lot area. A brand new residential district, NR3, will also be created, which allows for building coverage of 80 percent of the total lot.

The zoning districts multi-family residential (R4) and residential light commercial (RLC) will be collapsed into a new district called corridor residential (CR), which allows a non-residential base floor-to-area ratio of 10 percent.

"Single family neighborhoods are all going to stay the same," Fortner said. "It won't change what they can do. It's really aiming for multi-family and commercial areas."

The community commercial district (CC) and the residential Professional district (RP) will become the new district, neighborhood mix (NM), which can have a maximum residential base FAR of .75 and a maximum non-residential base of .75.

The district highway commercial (HC) will be split into two new districts: corridor mix (CM), which will come with a minimum public space requirement of 20 percent of the total lot area and town center mix (TCM).

"We're introducing some urban design elements that were in the bypass corridor overlay district, which the city adopted," Fortner said. "We're taking a lot of those urban design elements and applying them for other commercial or mixed-use parts of the city so you'll have good design not just on the bypass corridor."

All industrial districts will remain unchanged under the new ordinance. Covington historic districts will also remain unchanged.

"I really think that we're headed down the right path," Carter said of the new ordinance. "I think that this can be another economic development tool if developed properly."

In mid-May, a breakfast will be hosted by the city of Covington for local developers at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning. Representatives from Market and Main will also attend to answer questions from developers about the new ordinance.

The ordinance is currently scheduled to come before the Mayor and city council for consideration and adoption on June 23.

"This is a living breathing document. It's not something that's been voted on at all," Carter said. "This is something new and different. We're really trying to go all out to make sure that everyone understands and everyone gets a say. We're not trying to drive any one agenda."

More information on the draft ordinance is available at the Covington Planning Department.