Selbyville P& Z considers residential zoning option

Housing developers might have more room for creativity as Selbyville considers a new concept for residential planned communities (RPCs).

Selbyville’s Planning & Zoning Commission met July 12 to consider an “overlay” option, or variation of how a piece of land may be divided into lots.

The town primarily has homes built in the R-4 Residential zone now. Lots there must be 100 by 120 feet deep, equaling 12,000 square feet. That allows 2.2 housing units per acre. Neighborhoods may be built in a grid pattern.

Coleman Bunting of Bunting Construction and designer Mike Wigley presented a new scenario to the town council in June, which was forwarded to P&Z for further discussion.

In Wigley’s drawings, a large parcel of land could contain various lot sizes and shapes, some multifamily dwellings (such as townhomes) and several remaining acres of public land. Wigley showed how the town could have the same population density and more “open space,” with parks or walking trails.

“We talked about the benefits … and how we could provide more flexibility without increasing density,” said Bob Dickerson, town administrator. “We need to make sure the intent … is to provide a better plan for our community.”

If one section of the neighborhood was more tightly designed, creative planning could also decrease the number of roads, pavement and utility pipes installed and maintained in new housing developments.

“We just want to make it clear we’re not allowing for more density,” said Dickerson. “We’re looking at more flexibility in the design that would incorporate some multifamily development because the market is demanding that right now. The big lots with the big homes don’t seem to be as in demand as they were a few years ago.”

“Many more potential buyers now are looking for smaller lots so they have less yard to maintain,” Wigley said at the June town council meeting. From young people to retirees, buyers would “rather have a smaller yard and more open space that they could share with their neighbors.”

Wigley said a creative, winding layout can make for a more interesting neighborhood, compared to the straight line of houses on equal-sized lots. That could also help builders design around natural wetlands and ditches.

“Lot size doesn’t need to be the governing criteria. The density’s controlling it, and then let the thing flow. Let the planner have the flexibility to create a better project,” said Bunting in June.

The RPC overlay would be an option, not a mandate, for builders of planned communities.

The Town asked consulting engineers Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc. to develop a draft of how a residential planning overlay could be stated in town code. The regulation would include the intent of the code and the Town’s approach for enforcing rules about active and passive space, multifamily and single-family units, lot sizes, setbacks and so forth.

“We’re still in the study and consideration phase,” Dickerson emphasized.

The Planning & Zoning Commission will meet again Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 4 p.m. to further discuss an R-4 RPC overlay ordinance.