Zoning Commission vote advances zone change

Justin Post --
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Livingston Zoning Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to recommend changing the zoning of a 5.6-acre parcel on the city’s north side to allow for multifamily housing.

Developers of the North-Town Livingston subdivision are requesting the zone change in an effort to build 14 four-plex structures on the property, said Jim Baerg, a member of the Zoning Commission who was appointed as the commission’s chairman during Tuesday’s meeting.

Zoning Commission member Wendy Weaver voted against recommending approval of NorthTown’s request, which now goes before the Livingston City Commission for final consideration.

The NorthTown request to change the property’s zoning from R2, which allows for single-family homes and duplexes, to R3, which allows four-plexes, is tentatively scheduled to go before the City Commission at 5:30 p.m. June 4.

The newly-formed Zoning Commission used what’s known as the “Lowe” test in forming its decision to recommend approval of rezoning the property. The “Lowe” test is a series of questions the commission uses to evaluate proposed zoning changes in accordance with state law, Baerg said.

About 15 people attended Tuesday’s meeting and approximately eight people who live near the proposed development spoke against recommending approval of the zone change.

The Zoning Commission heard a presentation about the planned development, which was nearly identical to the pitch made two years ago when the developers sought the zone change before the city’s Planning Board, Baerg said. The city has since formed the new Zoning Commission and Baerg is the only member of the commission who previously served on the Planning Board.

The City Commission denied the developer’s initial 2017 request following a more than three-hour meeting in which some 40 people attended both to support and oppose the project.

Baerg said he was surprised to hear a similar proposal from the developer after the initial zone change request received significant attention from residents in the neighborhood.

“I don’t think they changed a word,” Baerg said. “I might be wrong about that, but that was everybody’s sense. Given the concerns of the neighbors and the discussions that went on at the City Commission, they sort of came back with the same proposal which I certainly found curious.”

Development of this 5.6-acre parcel being considered for rezoning represents the third phase of the NorthTown subdivision and would create 56 new housing units in Livingston. The three-phase subdivision extends over 132 acres as part of a 400-home development.

While the developers are proposing 14 four-plexes on the 5.6 acres being considered for a zone change, Baerg said the developer would not be required by law to stay within those parameters.

“They could jam in twice as many units as they’ve laid out there and do that legally once they get the zoning change,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”

City officials have more leeway in dictating a development during a subdivision request, but this property is already subdivided and the developer is requesting a zone change, which comes down to a yes or no decision with no conditions, Baerg said.

“It’s just kind of an up or down vote,” he said.

Weaver, who voted no, was not immediately available for comment.