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Zoning updates would affect homeowners, businesses

For the last several months, Woodbury city staff have been working on updating the city's zoning ordinance so it's more compatible with the comprehensive plan.

The city's 30-year comprehensive plan was adopted one year ago, and some of the language in the zoning ordinance was out of date.

"It was a good time for us to go back and look at the entire zoning ordinance," said Janelle Schmitz, planning and economic development manager.

Woodbury Planning Commission has been reviewing the ordinance in small chunks and so has City Council for the past few months.

Council is expected to adopt the final document in the beginning of next year.

Some of the changes in the ordinance that pertain to Woodbury homeowners include residential setbacks, Schmitz said.

Staff is proposing to change rear yard setbacks from the existing 25 feet to 35 feet to give residents a little bit more space for decks or porches.

"If your neighbor does the same thing behind you, things can get fairly tight," Community Development Director Dwight Picha said of the existing regulations.

Proposed changes in the commercial district include extending the life of a conditional use permit from one to three years.

If a business gets a conditional use permit for a drive-through, for example, and that business goes out of business after a year or so, then the next business would not have to go through the same process for the same purposes, Schmitz said.

"If it's the same use, it probably has the same impact," she added.

With the economy the way it is, and trying to get spaces occupied in the city, this proposal provides fewer hoops to jump through, Schmitz explained.

"We've given them a little more flexibility from one year to three years," she said.

The proposal also pertains to other businesses like restaurants and day care centers as long as they keep abiding by the original, approved conditional use permit.

Other changes in the zoning ordinance clarify some of the definitions that are no longer used or are outdated, according to city staff.

Commercial businesses in areas like Seasons Market, which are businesses in a neighborhood district, are proposed to be identified as neighborhood commercial businesses.

"We think it'll be a lot clearer," Picha said, adding that it will help clarify things for those purchasing property in Phase II, where residential areas will also have retail.

City staff will continue to work on updating the ordinance in small pieces instead of bringing one large document to the City Council.

Residents and business owners who seek to comment or discuss any of the changes may contact City Hall and set up meetings with staff, Schmitz said.

"It's been a good process," she said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.