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City close to adopting updated Comprehensive Plan, zoning regulations PDF Print E-mail

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By Jan Schultz

The Imperial Republican

Imperial’s updated Comprehensive Plan and zoning regulations are likely within days of approval.
A resolution adopting the Comprehensive Plan is on Monday’s council agenda, and the updated zoning regulations may also be approved that night on second reading.
The council’s July 21 meeting included a lengthy discussion on the two important city documents, as the council and mayor hashed out details with Brenda Jensen and Craig Bennett, planners with Miller & Associates, the firm hired to coordinate the city’s updates.
Cities Imperial’s size must update these documents every 10 years by law.
The input gathered from public steering committee meetings and individual sessions with the Imperial Planning Commission guided the planners in the updates.
Including a few tweaks and changes suggested July 21, the new Comprehensive Plan and zoning regs will again be before the council and mayor Monday night.
Jensen noted they received a lot of good input from both the public and planning commission the past year and a half.
“I encourage you to use this (Comprehensive Plan) as a tool over the next 10 years,” Jensen said, adding that council members should have it with them at every meeting.
Bennett, who worked more closely on the zoning updates, said the Comprehensive Plan is a tool that can be amended and changed during the next decade, but zoning regulations are set in ordinances.
“They are rules on what you can and cannot do on ground,” he emphasized.
Here is a little bit of what’s new in both the Comprehensive Plan and updated zoning regulations.
Comprehensive Plan
Future land use, recreation, potential annexation, public infrastructure, commercial development and marketing are all addressed in the Comprehensive Plan, complete with colorful maps and tools to guide future growth.
Noting the housing shortage here and little available residential lot space in the city limits, Jensen outlined possible future land use areas in the plan for homes.
Suggested areas for potential residential expansion include:
Northwest area just outside of city limits for large lot residential zoning.
Further development east of airport for large lot residential.
Further development in Cornerstone Development Park.
Land north of the high school across 12th St. (this area was also suggested as a combination of residential and commercial).
Available commercial space downtown is also at a premium, Jensen noted, with only two store fronts available for occupancy.
“It’s a great problem to have, but there needs to be more commercial space available,” she said.
One area suggested for future commercial development is along East Highway 61 on the Miracle Mile, south of 12th St.
Other sites suggested are north of Imperial on Highway 61 (east side) and southeast along East Highway 6.
Five areas for potential residential and commercial development are highlighted on an annexation plan map, encompassing the future land use areas reviewed above.        Again emphasizing they are suggestions only for guiding the city, Jensen noted the state requires cities to have an annexation plan included in its Comprehensive Plan.
Concerning recreation, the plan includes potential development of a hike-bike trail. It is separate into three sections to split up the cost, but all three eventually would provide a continuous hike-bike trail loop.
Other desired recreational attractions and amenities brought out during public meetings or from comments to city office personnel, Jensen said, included soccer fields, a splash pad, new fire hall, a fishing pond and cultural arts center.
“I have never been in a community going through this process that has such a desire for the arts—music, theatre, history,” she said.
Jensen said at many of the meetings over the year and a half people brought up the desire for such a place emphasizing the arts.
She briefly touched on the importance of gateway entrances that give a community’s first impression. Noting the new welcome sign underway east of Imperial, there are also two others in the potential plans at Imperial’s west and north entrances.
Zoning regulations
Several additions and updates are in the proposed zoning regulations that underwent first reading at the July 21 meeting.
Some of the major ones are reviewed below.
A new commercial zone is being proposed—“commercial office” (C-O), joining two others now in place, highway business (C-1) and central  or downtown business (C-2).
The C-O zoning would allow for such businesses as medical offices that could operate less invasively in or near residential areas. As defined, the intent of this district is “to provide office locations that serve neighborhood or community needs.”
A whole new section addresses cargo containers, noting they are allowed only in areas zoned agricultural, highway business (C-1) or the city’s two industrial-zoned areas.
They are not allowed in any residential areas, unless they were present (grandfathered) before the regulations were in effect. In those areas where they are allowed, there are guidelines set on number allowed, exterior requirements, etc.
A section also addresses allowed temporary uses of cargo containers in residential areas for such purposes as construction offices, temporary storage and others.
Accessory buildings took up a lot of the zoning regulation discussion.
The proposed regs up the allowed accessory buildings in residential areas from two to three, and define what percentage of the lot can be occupied by such buildings.
Accessory buildings cannot exceed 1,300 square feet in R-1 and R-2 zoned areas. In the large lot zoned areas, maximum size allowed will be 2,400 square feet. Maximum sidewalls for accessory buildings in R-1 and R-2 residential areas were increased from 10 to 12 feet in the new regs.
New sections also include regulations regarding wind energy systems and communication towers.
As they summed up their reports, the two planners commended the city and its residents for good input in the updating process.
“And, a lot of times we go into the planning commission setting and they are not up to speed on what they have in their zoning regulations,” Bennett said.
Bennett said that’s not the case in Imperial, commending the planning commission for their knowledge of their zoning regulations, making the process much easier.


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