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2014-05-15

Mothers-in-law not welcome in city?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Residents living on nice large lots in the City of Bandera, who thought they might construct a little domicile behind their main houses to provide an aging in-law or father or mother with a private space of their own, well, forget about it! Aging relatives are doomed to live out their twilight years in close proximity with the rest of the family.
R-1 vs. R-2 zoning
During the Tuesday, May 6, special meeting of the City of Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), members discussed R-1 vs. R-2 zoning as related to single family residences - no mean feat.
R-1 refers to single-family dwellings and R-2 to duplexes. In a district zoned R-1, only one single-family dwelling is allowed per single lot. Minimum lot size for a single-family dwelling is defined as no less than 10,000 square feet. Bed and breakfast operations are also allowed in districts zoned R-1.
R-2 zoning allows for a dwelling or group of dwellings on one plot or lot that contains separate living units for two families, but which may have joint services and facilities. The ordinance defines "dwelling" as a building designed or used as the living quarters for one or more families. The ordinance fails to define "bed and breakfast."
Earlier, Commissioner Toni Kuntz had been asked to review the ordinances in question after a concerned citizen had complained that more than one dwelling unit was routinely being constructed on city lots.
"As I was doing this task, a lot of questions came up about code compliance, grandfathering and enforcement," Kuntz said.
Regarding two residences already on a single lot, she suggested allowing citizens to replat the property if the lot were large enough. "I just want to know how to proceed," Kuntz said.
'Liberties were taken'
"We want to keep lots large to give a country feeling in a urban environment," said P&Z Chairman Tony Battle. "But, we can't tell violators to tear their buildings down. We have to come up with another solution. "
Earlier, Kuntz had worked under a misconception - as did many residents - that the R-1 zoning allowed for a second home on the property if residents of both units were related. For example, a second home might have been constructed for a mother-in-law or other relative. However, that dwelling could not be used to generate extra income.
During the meeting, Battle pointed out, "R-1 says, 'One single-family dwelling per single lot.' There was no mention of a familial suite as a separate dwelling."
Although, Kuntz noted, a resident could rent out a room or design a mother-in-law suite if it's located under one roof. The resident would then be compliant with the ordinance.
City Councilman Jim Hannah noted that multiple families could supposedly live under two roofs if the separate dwellings were connected by a covered walkway. "This spawned the complaint," he said, adding, "Liberties were taken."
Density problems?
While Battle said it would be difficult to tell people what to do with their property, he added, "This might open the door for everyone in town to make extra money. In the beginning, intentions might have been good, but this might double the density."
Apropos to a density "problem," during the 2010 census, elected officials had anticipated the municipality's population would increase; however, the City of Bandera inexplicably lost approximately 100 residents. New signs denoting the city's correct population have yet to be installed.
Also, as a way of controlling density, P&Z commissioners discussed possibly restricting the number of cars that residents can have - and adding the restrictions to an ordinance.
'Issue is enforcement'
Returning to the crux of the matter, Commissioner Tom Brosz said, "The real issue is enforcement."
"We can't enforce what isn't clear," Kuntz countered.
"One single-family dwelling per lot is pretty clear," Battle said, adding, "Have the code inspector enforce the ordinance and write the violators up. No one can dwell in a second unit or have a 50-foot breezeway."
"Enforcing is where lawyers make a lot of money," Kuntz said.
She also assured those attending the meeting that all violators would be cited. "There will be no discrimination with enforcement," she said.
Seizing upon a suggestion by county resident Robert Koimn, Battle recommended adding language to the ordinance that allows for only one utility meter per lot. He also recommended that an accessory building on a city lot be prohibited from being used solely for the purpose of rental income.
An accessory building is defined as "a subordinate building on the lot occupied by the main building having an incidental use in connection with the main building, provided the height shall not exceed one story when such subordinate building is incidental to a residential use."
An accessory building could be a shed, office or simply a man - or woman - cave, among other uses.
Additionally, P&Z commissioners felt that bed and breakfasts must be confined to rooms for rent under a single roof - not little cabins, huts or detached dwellings on the premises.
When a commissioner asked who allowed residents to construct second dwellings on their lots in the first place, Battle said, "They applied for permits and received them." To be clear, the problem did not begin under the aegis of former City Administrator Mike Cardenas, but with that of a prior administrator.
While no decisions were made, Kuntz was asked to continue working on the verbiage of the ordinance in consultation with municipal attorney Monte Akers.