Hammond council approves Unified Development Code

A Unified Development Code that will bring all zoning and property development ordinances into a single document has been approved by the City Council.

Before approving the new code Tuesday, the council voted for three amendments that changed parts of it, which brought about considerable discussion during a public hearing before the regular meeting.

One of the amendments removes any definition of “family” and what constitutes a “single family dwelling.”

Councilman Mike Williams argued existing ordinances regulating who can live together are unenforceable and therefore should not be part of the new code.

The issue was raised by Hammond resident Robert Whittington, who told the council that in the past, problems have arisen in his neighborhood about unlimited numbers of persons living in a residence designated as single family.

Whittington said some business owners in Hammond will bring in workers from other nations and house them in a single residence. “They sleep and eat there and go to work. …It causes problems with traffic and noise,” he said.

City Attorney Andre Coudrain told the council that courts in a number of states have ruled negatively on laws restricting who can live together.

He said the council could pass an ordinance regulating how many residents can reside in a single-family dwelling but said that could also cause problems.

“What do you do if someone has a large family… or they want grandma and grandpa to move in? How do you define family? … There is no clear way to answer that question,” Coudrain said.

When it came up for a vote, the council agreed and amended the document to strike out any definition of “family” as it relates to dwellings.

A lengthy discussion about lot sizes ensued.

Ralph Ross, a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, said the new lot sizes and setbacks will create unwanted population density in many areas of the city. He pointed out the new code will allow accessory structures to be built as high as 30 feet.

“Think about it … you could have a two-story building built only 3 feet away from a residence,” Ross said.

Ross prefaced his remarks by pointing out that since Hurricane Katrina, Hammond has seen dozens of new housing developments and that in 2008 the City Council passed an ordinance establishing 65-foot lots to lessen population density.

When the issue came to a vote, the council amended the proposed code for set backs at 5 feet instead of the proposed 3 feet but did not change the 50-foot allowable lot sizes.

The council also voted to delete regulations establishing when garbage cans be set out and when they have to be picked up. Several years ago, the council voted to set times when garbage cans can be placed curbside. Under the new law, residents can leave garbage cans on the street for as long as they choose.

The council voted to make the new development code effective March 1.