Council deals with setbacks
By Jesse Phelps
The Ojai City Council labored
for about five-and-a-half hours last Tuesday evening, including
more than an hour of closed session legal issues and an agenda
packed full of various item.
They also took time to conduct a workshop on a revised zoning
City Manager Dan Singer said that city staff has been working
on the ordinance for the past five years to bring it into compliance
with the general plan.
Community Development Director Robert Casias said that a draft
was brought before both planning and the council for review and
that the first public workshop occurred in November 2001. Staff
incorporated direction from all concerned and released the latest
version in March.
After a May review by planning and the incorporation of input
and provisions complying with the new second dwelling unit ordinance,
penned by City Attorney Monte Widders, a new draft was completed
for Tuesday's workshop.
In addition to aligning it with the granny-flat ordinance, other
major changes in the document concerned limiting bed-and-breakfast
establishments in single- or multi-family residential zones and
the elimination of the Business Professional Commercial (B-P)
Another big change, and a focal point of conversation for several
council members, is a provision allowing 10-foot setbacks in
the village mixed use zone, where 25 feet previously embodied
the minimum allowable distance between buildings on a lot.
In fact, Casias said, the setback requirement was once 45 feet,
in the days before the Los Arboles development on Montgomery
Mayor Pro-Tempore Sue Horgan said she thinks that, aesthetically,
things are becoming too compact. "I have a problem with
reducing (the setbacks) too much," she said.
She found support from her fellows. Said councilwoman Rae Hanstad,
"The 45-25-10 thing bothers me. I am loath to move - I know
45 feet may have been mythical in the first place - but 10 seeems
Both Casias and planning staffer Katrina Rice-Schmidt attempted
to allay the fears of the councilwomen. Casias pointed out that,
in most city zones, 10-foot setbacks are the norm.
Schmidt said that the 25-foot requirement essentially forces
attached additions. With a lessening of the setbacks, she said,
"it allows the buildings to be broken up - it's a scale
issue. Otherwise the only option people have is to build one
large building by adding to the original structure."
Councilman David Bury backed the idea of changing the setbacks.
He said with the level of density where it is, it would be difficult
to build on most every lot in town, should the requirements remain
as they are.
Ultimately, in deference to reservations expressed by Horgan,
Hanstad and councilwoman Carol Smith, Singer said his department
will work up two new versions of the ordinance for review at
the December council meeting, at which time everyone can decide
how they want the setback requirements to read.
At that meeting, Mayor Joe DeVito will hand over the ceremonial
reigns of the city government for the fourth time. Horgan is
expected to take the mayor's seat for her first term.
On Tuesday, DeVito lauded the work done by staff on the ordinance.
He commended Singer and his crew for the readability of the ordinance.
Addressing the city manager, he said, "I hope, with as long
as you have spent on this thing, that we don't have a whole group
of people come out of the woodwork and try to tweak it."
While that wish may not be granted, no member of the public offered
comment at the Tuesday workshop.
The Ojai Valley News
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