City OKs changes to zoning, floodplain ordinances

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Following a unanimous vote by Franklin’s City Council, two-family detached dwellings will once again be allowed as a principle permitted use in areas of the city zoned R-2.

The issue had previously been brought to the council’s attention by Councilman Benny Burgess in June. Prior to the council’s action on Monday, city zoning ordinances had defined duplexes in R-2 zoned areas as a nonconforming use, but several houses that were built as duplexes prior to the adoption of the prohibition had been grandfathered. The issue with the prohibition that Burgess had brought up was that if any of the grandfathered houses were to become vacant for more than two years, were to be destroyed or were to undergo renovations costing more than two thirds of their assessed value, they would lose their grandfathered status and no longer be permitted to remain duplexes.

Former city manager R. Randy Martin, in June, explained that the prohibition on duplexes, triplexes and four-units in R-2 zoned areas dates from the early 2000s.

“The catch 22 we found ourselves in is some of these structures have been vacant for years,” Martin had said. “The owners can’t do anything with them because they’re not designed as single units.”

The vote on Monday was taken after the city’s Planning Commission also approved the change to the zoning ordinance. While the council’s action on Monday removes the prohibition on duplexes, triplexes and four-units in R-2 zoned areas remain prohibited. In other business, the council and Planning Commission also both approved an amendment to the city’s floodplain ordinance to allow accessory structures with certain considerations as allowed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program.

These considerations include that the structures:

• not be used for human habitation;

• be limited to no more than 600 square feet in total floor area;

• be usable only for parking of vehicles or limited storage;

• be constructed of flood damage resistant materials below the base flood elevation;

• be constructed and placed to offer the minimum resistance to the flow of flood waters;

• be anchored to prevent flotation;

• have electrical service and mechanical equipment elevated to or above the flood elevation;

• be provided with flood openings.

According to Donald Goodwin, the city’s director of community development, the NFIP is a voluntary program that offers flood insurance at a reduced cost to participating localities. To participate, localities must adopt floodplain regulations consistent with the NFIP and administer the regulations accordingly.

The reason the council made the change to the ordinance was because in August 2017, the city received a community assistance visit from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which recommended that the city’s floodplain ordinance be amended to allow accessory structures.