|The zoning code defines a setback as the minimum distance required between a structure and a lot line on the same lot.
The zoning code has always allowed portions of a house, such as a porch, balcony, deck, awning or other exterior features of the building to extend into the required setbacks within limits. However, many current standards are unclear, use outdated language or do not address common setback concerns that have developed over time.
The following is a summary of the proposed standards:
- Porch setbacks: The proposed setback changes related to porches will add clarity regarding the distance that a porch is allowed to extend into setbacks.
The code currently allows porches to project into front yard setbacks by an undefined number, or 3' into the side setback and to be built as close as 10' from the rear setback. However, the porch is allowed to only project or overhang and doesn't allow the supporting posts and columns to also extend into the same setbacks.
The proposed code will clarify that covered porches, including the supporting posts, can be built into the front setback with a 50% reduction, up to 5' from the side lot line or 10' from the rear lot line.
The need for a change was signaled by the number of variance cases presented to the Board of Adjustment related to setback reductions for porch additions and also the volume of customer requests at the Community and Economic Development Department front counter or during building plan review.
- Distance between buildings: This proposed revision will reduce the distance between buildings, on the same lot, from 10' to 5', which means the minimum distance required between a house and a detached ramada, garage or storage building, on the same lot, could be 5'.
This proposed change is due to the layout and design challenges that the current requirement of 10' creates when considering buildings must also meet the required side and rear setbacks of the neighborhood. Most often a homeowner must consider alternative designs or find a way to work around the 10' requirement. One common work around is attaching the proposed structure (i.e. ramada, garage, etc.) to the main building, which often inadvertently creates other building or fire code issues.
- Option for additional setback reduction: This proposal would allow certain accessory features of a building (i.e. covered porch, awning, etc.) to be built closer to the lot line under specific circumstances. If a property line of a residential lot is next to a parcel of land that would remain vacant such as next to a common area, wash or otherwise open space, then extending the accessory feature could be allowed to be as close as 3' from the lot line if a solid wall was built for screening.
- Yard walls: New language is proposed to allow pedestrian entryway features for courtyards and vehicular driveway gates within the front yard setbacks.
Currently, the code allows yard walls to be built within the setbacks but at a limited height. The proposed code would keep the same wall heights but allow a courtyard entry gate or a driveway gate to be built within the setback. Also language has been added to allow a 2' taller perimeter wall if the lot line is next to a busy street.
Homeowners have often requested to have these features as part of a perimeter wall but have been denied due to the setback requirements for taller walls.
- Spas: Language was added to the swimming pool section of the code to clarify that current setback standards apply to all spas. Also, a modification is proposed to change the rear setback, for an above-ground spa only, from 5' to 3'.
The code limits swimming pools, which has always included spas, to be no closer than 5' to a rear lot line. However, above ground spas are often requested to be closer to the rear lot line due to small lot sizes and other required setbacks. Since there is no ground disturbance for above-ground spas, reducing the setback from 5' to 3' has been found to be an acceptable distance for safety and maintenance.
- Clarify standards for specific building/architectural elements: Additional clarification and/or changes to the code include standardizing setbacks for other features such as, chimneys, decks and bay windows. The proposed code will continue to allow setback encroachments into rear and side yard setbacks for these types of features but with a conservative approach for side yards. Side yards are generally smaller and usually closer to a neighbor thus creating the potential for more impact. Therefore, the side yard reductions will be more limited, often requiring at least a 5’ distance.
- Provide protection of designated environmentally sensitive areas: New language is proposed that prohibits any kind of extension of a structure to be built or overhang an environmentally sensitive area.
Although many sections of the proposed code allow encroachments into setbacks, there are specific areas that are meant to be open and unobstructed. Language has been added to ensure those areas remain clear of any building features whether on the ground or projecting out from a building.
A detailed list of the proposed changes is included in Attachment 3.
General Plan Conformance
The Your Voice, Our Future General Plan provides the following goals, policies and actions:
Goal Q: A built environment that creatively integrates landscape, architecture, open space and conservation elements to increase the sense of place, community interaction and quality of life.
Policy Land Use 6: Maintain the small-town, neighborly character and improve the design and safety of the built environment.
Action Item 125: Maintain the unique character of Oro Valley by studying and updating site design standards and land use regulations that define and incorporate effective compatibility standards.
The proposed code amendment meets these goals by:
- Adding language to ensure environmentally sensitive areas are not impeded upon with building additions while providing more opportunity for positive neighbor interactions and updating the code to meet today's building standards complies with the intention of the General Plan.
Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting
The Commission voted to recommend approval of the setback amendment as proposed. The draft of the meeting minutes is included as Attachment 4.