Warrenton revisits rules for housing, apartment zoning

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 8/1/22

The city of Warrenton is making significant adjustments to its rules for high-density housing developments, particularly for multi-family structures such as apartment buildings.

The board of …

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Warrenton revisits rules for housing, apartment zoning

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The city of Warrenton is making significant adjustments to its rules for high-density housing developments, particularly for multi-family structures such as apartment buildings.

The board of aldermen voted July 19 to approve changes to the city’s zoning code, most notably separating the process for multi-family construction from other types of home development. The rule changes partly reverse a decision by aldermen last year to ban single-family houses from the city’s high-density housing zones, aka “R-3” zones.

Now, the new rules instead allow single-family houses in R-3 zones, but prevent new apartments in those zones and require new apartment buildings to go through a different and separate approval process.

For developers who want to build housing in R-3 areas, the changes mean a rapid shift in what they are or aren’t allowed to build without jumping through additional hoops.

Landowner Clifton Woolf, who has a small subdivision development along Highway U, said the changes are creating challenges for building affordable multi-family housing. Woolf’s development, which has the R-3 zoning, already includes a mix of single-family, multi-family, and dedicated senior housing.

“Six months ago, the R-3 zoning allowed for multi-family and single-family homes. (Then) R-3 zoning allowed for only multi-family homes. ... Now the zoning change for tonight is to be only single-family homes, no multi-family,” Woolf told aldermen on July 19. He said providing for the development of more affordable apartment units is a vital need for the Warrenton area.

Woolf asked to be allowed to continue building more multi-family housing that is already being engineered for his subdivision. Alternately, the city should allow continued mixture of single- and multi-family housing in pre-existing R-3 developments, Woolf said.

“The city set up the requirements that presently exist, and in my opinion is obligated to honor them,” Woolf stated.

City Attorney Christopher Graville explained that the city is revisiting the development rules because the previous change, which set aside the R-3 zone exclusively for multi-family, created unexpected hurdles to development that the city didn’t intend.

Under the new rules, Graville said apartments and mixed-use developments that include multiple types of property are now funneled into a special type of zoning called a “planned unit development.” The purpose of that zoning is to allow aldermen to do a more detailed review of a project before approving it.

“(Developers) can still do multi-family, they just have to rezone the property. The direction we’ve gotten from the board (of aldermen) is to look at multi-family projects on a project-by-project basis,” Graville explained. “We’re not taking away the ability to do apartments. We’re changing the vehicle through which you can do apartments.”

Graville added that a provision in the new rules allows subdivisions which were already platted and approved to still include duplexes. Any future issues being experienced by developers can be handled with additional adjustments, Graville said.

Warrenton Board of Aldermen, Development

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