A new strategy to determine in what zoning districts multifamily residences should be allowed will be considered, officials said last week.
The city’s personnel, finance and public works committee last week agreed to look into changes to the building codes that now allow multifamily dwellings, including apartments, in areas zoned for businesses.
City code now allows for apartments to be built in B-2 zoned property pending a conditional use permit issued by city and approved by aldermen.
Officials said apartments may not ever be appropriate in B-2 properties.
“That could put a complex in the middle of a business development,” said City Administrator Russell Rost. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate in industrial parks.”
Multifamily dwellings also can be permitted with a conditional use permit in R-1 zoned districts, which traditionally are reserved for single-family homes.
Alderman Karen Erwin said residents in St. Andrews subdivision are concerned that multifamily dwellings would be built adjacent to the subdivision.
“They are telling me that because the lots are not selling that it could possibly do this,” she said. “I disagree 110 percent — multifamily should not go into single-family homes areas.”
Erwin added that what she has heard was only rumor and there has not been any indication that there would actually be apartments built next to St. Andrews subdivision.
However, officials noted that there are some multi-dwelling developments that have been successful in areas zoned for other purposes.
“How do we accommodate what is appropriate?” asked Alderman Dustin Bailey.
Erwin said when homeowners purchase property, they should be assured that neighboring property will remain the same.
“Where we need to focus is protection so citizens know when they buy something it stays that way,” said Erwin.
She added that officials shouldn’t be swayed when developers threaten that they won’t build in Union if zoning codes are made more restrictive.
Erwin further explained that some developers from the St. Louis area have learned that they can build multifamily dwellings in Union because of fewer zoning restrictions.
Rost said there are safety measures should be considered when determining if a “high-density development” is appropriate in some areas.
He offered the example of apartments near St. Andrews or Birch Creek Estates where there are only one entrance and one exit.
“Is the infrastructure there to support that?” he asked.
City Attorney Tim Melenbrink warned that officials should specifically define what conditions could be placed on multifamily developments in other zoning districts.
“There could be a lot of hairsplitting,” he said. “You want to have as well defined criteria as you possibly can.”
Melenbrink further explained that there could be legal implications if a developer feels discriminated against because their development was prohibited while another developer’s conditional use permit was approved.
“It may just need to be more structured,” he said. “There could be legal issues that we can’t defend against.”
Officials will work to develop a plan that would set parameters for allowing multifamily residences in areas zoned B-2, or simply no longer allow them.