WALKER — The city has adopted a Unified Development Code.
After a public hearing, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Monday to adopt the code and stipulated if the building and planning fees included in it are lowered at a later date, affected residents and businesses will be refunded the difference.
In 2011, the city received a state-administered $97,000 grant from the federal government to create a master plan.
The board approved the plan in May 2012, but the city still needed a UDC code, Director of Public Works and Chief of Operations Fred Raiford said.
Businesses need to know exactly what they need to do to build in a city “or they’re not even going to look at coming,” he said.
The old requirements were unclear and at times even contradicted each other.
The new UDC code clarifies requirements governing commercial signs, provides for optional site plan reviews in the case of possible wetlands or floodplain problems, updates parking standards for residential, commercial and industrial properties and adds landscaping and drainage standards for commercial properties, among other changes.
Mayor Rick Ramsey said the new code also removes a “loophole” that allowed mobile homes on Walker’s major commercial corridors: La. 447, Florida Boulevard and Burgess Avenue.
Raiford said if problems or concerns come up with the new code, the city is open to revising it.
“This is a living document. People have a process to change it through the planning and zoning board and this board,” Raiford said.
Some fees for building and planning will be raised, but the fee schedule is subject to change, he said. For major subdivisions, the cost of permits will be $300 plus $5 per lot.
Builders of minor subdivisions will pay $50.
Building and planning fees for commercial and residential construction will be $8 per $1,000 of the estimated value of the residence or building with a minimum fee of $50. Under the new code, the fee for a house or commercial building valued at $100,000 will be $800.
The mayor expressed concern that large commercial developments might be “overburdened” by the new fees.
Ramsey cited the proposed Our Lady of the Lake hospital project as the kind of project that could be affected adversely by the higher fee.
Raiford agreed to research the possibility of lowering some of the fees.
The process could take up to two months, including planning and zoning meetings and public notice requirements, he said.