Central zoning code requirements start Jan. 1

Councilman: Rules nip urban sprawl

Beginning Wednesday, new businesses, homes or developments coming to the city of Central must adhere to the city’s new, 80-page comprehensive zoning code.

Since the city was formed in 2005, Central has used the zoning codes and laws of East Baton Rouge Parish to guide development. That was a temporary plan until Central officials compiled the city’s zoning code.

Following four years of work by residents, developers and city officials, the new city zoning code was approved in November.

David Barrow, Central’s chief administrative officer, said the goal was to keep things simple and to create a document that conforms to the city’s Master Land Use Plan, which has been in effect since 2010. Barrow said he hopes to have the new city zoning maps ready for city officials in February.

Central City Councilman Wayne Messina said the new comprehensive zoning code was needed to maintain the city’s rural charm and to nip urban sprawl in the bud.

“It’s about smart growth so we can keep the scenic beauty of the rural areas. You don’t want to have the commercial areas just spreading all over,” Messina said.

Councilman Aaron Moak said the zoning code should help control growth.

“It’s a good thing because we’ll keep the hubs — commercial hubs, residential hubs, where they need to be,” Moak said.

Central Planning and Zoning Director Woodrow Muhammad added that the new zoning code has a mechanism that grandfathers business owners operating in Central before Jan. 1.

“Nobody will lose their livelihoods over this,” Barrow has said.

If an existing business closes for more than six months, the new zoning code will kick in and supersede the previous grandfathered status, Barrow said.

Messina said everybody wants a zoning code until it affects them.

“You never want to hurt anybody. I think we will work with people,” Messina said.

The new code establishes four residential districts:

  • R-1 Single Family Residential: Minimum lot size is one-half acre with a width of 125 feet or more.
  • R-2 Single Family Residential: Minimum lot size is one-quarter acre with a width of 75 feet or more.
  • R-3 Single Family Residential: Minimum lot size is 7,200 square feet with a width of 60 feet or more.
  • R/A Rural/Agriculture: Minimum Lot Size is three acres with a minimum lot width of 250 feet.

New permits for individual mobile homes can be issued only in the R/A zoning district, and hardship requirements for mobile homes must be located on property with at least 3 acres of land.

The code also says proposed residential subdivision developments of more than 15 lots or units must receive approval as a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, which requires a public hearing before the Central Zoning Commission and approval of the city council.

The new PUD process requires developers to follow a density calculator to establish the maximum number of lots. In the past, developers were allowed to have smaller lot sizes than the district required. Starting Jan. 1, lot sizes in a PUD cannot be smaller than the lot sizes of the underlying zoning district unless the developer agrees to add open space.

The new code requires a minimum of 10 percent of the area be dedicated to open space for parks and playgrounds.

On the commercial side, six districts have been established:

  • B-1 Neighborhood Business District: Small-scale service and retail establishments on lots of 10,000 square feet to 2 acres. Buildings are limited to 5,000 square feet in size per floor.
  • B-2 Neighborhood Business District: Similar to B-1 except lot size is between 20,000 square feet and 3 acres. Businesses are limited to 12,000 square feet per floor.
  • B-3 General Commercial/ Business District: For moderate-intensity businesses with a minimum lot size of 2 acres and maximum building area of 35,000 square feet.
  • B-4 General Commercial/ Business District: For moderate- to high-intensity businesses with a minimum lot area of 4 acres and a maximum building area of 75,000 square feet.
  • B-5 Large Scale Commercial/Business District: For high-intensity businesses with a minimum office area of 75,000 square feet. All uses in this district must receive zoning approval as a PUD.
  • Office Research and Development District: For office parks, research facilities and light industrial or manufacturing.

All commercial development of 10 acres or more must receive approval as a PUD.

In addition, parking areas must be screened from nearby streets with low hedges and shade trees. All future mobile home parks will be limited to 10 units per acre.

“I see it as a fluid document that can be tweaked as we go along,” Moak said.

Councilman Louis DeJohn said he has gone over the new zoning code sentence by sentence, and overall, he thinks the code will be good for Central going forward.

“I’m excited about it. Of course we’ll need adjustments but I don’t see any major problems, and this is something we really need,” DeJohn said.