City Considers Driveway Standards for New Houses

A mishmash of parking situations dot Lakeland’s neighborhoods because land development codes do not specify driveway design for single-family and two-family housing. That could change very soon — at least for new housing.

Standards for residential driveways are among a baker’s dozen changes to the city land development codes that the City Commission is scheduled to vote on Nov. 18.

The proposed amendments to the development code, which was adopted in 2013, cover an array of issues, including:

The driveway changes will affect new construction, not houses already in place.

Few rules now

“Currently the only requirement is they provide an apron to get off the street,” Matthew Lyons, principal planner for development review and zoning, told city commissioners during a policy workshop on Nov. 1.

“There is no requirement that driveways be paved,” he said. “You can park in your front yard if you want to.”

The proposed standards would come into play when new houses are built, Lyons said.

Existing driveways and off-street parking areas, including front yards and side yards, would be legal, non-conforming uses, Lyons said. They could be maintained and repaired, provided that it does not cause additional non-conformity issues, he said.

Under the proposed ordinance each new home would have to have at least two parking spaces on the driveway or an accessory parking pad, under a carport or in an enclosed garage.

“You could build a house without a garage, but you would have to have a lane,” Teresa Maio, planning manager, told commissioners.

If the house has an accessory dwelling, which is common in historic districts, it would need an additional parking space, she said.

Lyons said that remodeling a house typically would not trigger having to comply with the new ordinance.

Current mishmash

Using photos, Lyons pointed to the jumble of parking situations that planners hope to avoid when new houses and duplexes are built, not only in new developments but also when homes are demolished and replaced in current neighborhoods.

The photos showed such situations as a house with no curb cuts resulting in a resident driving across the curb and sidewalk to park crosswise on the front lawn; aprons with no driveway that leave homeowners free to park wherever on the property; and an entire front yard paved for duplex parking.

Commissioner Phillip Walker said he often hears complaints from residents about four to six vehicles parked in small front yards. “They are using the front yard as a parking lot,” Walker said.

Brian Rewis, the city’s assistant director of community and economic development, said the proposed ordinance does not address that issue since existing parking situations are grandfathered in. However, if the vehicles are not operational, do not have current license tags or are commercial, that could be a code-enforcement issue even under current regulations, he said. .

If there are too many vehicles, “they can park in the street,” Rewis said. However since the street is public parking “they cannot save a spot on the street.”

New regulations

The driveway would have to end in front of a garage or carport or on the interior side yard. There would have to be parking for at least two vehicles, three if there is an accessory building.

Lyons said the proposed ordinance addresses the issue of too-short driveways that cause vehicles to block sidewalks by requiring driveways be at least 20 feet long beyond the public right of way. Or if the driveway is designed for two vehicles to park in tandem, the driveway would have to be at least 40 feet long, he said.

Driveways could be made of asphalt, concrete, brick, ornamental pavers, crushed stone, rock, gravel or similar materials.

“While they can do crushed stone or rock, not mulch or crushed shell or similar materials that would eventually wash out into street,” Lyons said.

The driveway could be a standard, ribbon or circular style.

Standard driveway widths would be 10 to 24 feet, except in designated historic districts where they would be restricted to 8 to 10 feet wide.

Ribbon driveways, expected to be used primarily in reconstruction in historical districts, would be designed to have at least two feet between the tire tracks. And the outer edge widths would have to be between 7 and 10 feet.

Circular drives would be restricted to large lots with at least a 75-foot frontage. The driveway width could be between 10 feet and 24 feet.

If an accessory parking pad is built, it could be up to 10 feet wide.

There could be only one curb cut, unless there is a circular drive or an accessory dwelling. Aprons could be up to three feet wider on each side of the driveway to accommodate turning vehicles.

Garage conversions

Garage conversions into dwellings would still be allowed, provided they are not taking away parking spaces, Lyons said.

Mayor Bill Mutz clarified the point, saying, “Say I have a garage and I want to build a patio in front and use the garage for whatever. I have taken away two parking spaces that I originally had and there were no other spaces; I could not do that.”

Correct, Lyons said.

As far as future housing, Lyons said that if a property owner had an irregular lot and there was no room for a driveway on the side, the owner could go through the established process and request a variance.

There will be public hearings about the proposed driveway ordinance and 12 other proposed amendments to the land development code during the Nov. 18 City Commission meeting, which starts at 3 p.m. at City Hall, 228 S. Massachusetts Ave.

The driveway proposal:

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