Growing appetite for patio homes drives change in Huntsville’s zoning rules

Huntsville City Hall exterior.jpgHuntsville City Hall

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — The City of Huntsville is overhauling its zoning rules in response to a growing demand for patio-style homes.

On Tuesday evening, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a 10 percent increase in the allowable building coverage in Residence 1, 1-A and 1-B districts.

If the City Council concurs, homebuilders in those districts will be able to put up larger houses — with smaller lawns — than current zoning laws allow.

Lisa Leddo, an urban planner with the city, said the aging of the Baby Boomers has caused a spike in the demand for single-story homes with two- or three-car garages but not much yard care required.

“They still want that large master bedroom and glamour bath, but on one level,” Leddo said Monday. “To get that on one lot, you need more lot coverage.”

Currently in Residence 1 and Residence 1-A districts, structures can cover 25 percent of a home lot. The maximum coverage is 30 percent in Residence 1-B districts.

The changes OK’d Tuesday would increase the building coverage to 35 percent in Residence 1 and 1-A districts, and to 40 percent in Residence 1-B.

Marie Bostick, the city’s manager of planning and zoning administration, said the current building coverages are “significantly lower” than the national average and more restrictive than most Southeastern cities.

Huntsville has granted 84 coverage variances since mid-2007 to allow homes with larger footprints and smaller yards, said Leddo. And developers have built 12 subdivisions on that model by offering plat restrictions.

Jeff Enfinger, founder of Enfinger Steele Development, said homebuyers are increasingly looking for single-story homes on smaller lots with easy access to playgrounds, pools, walking trails and other shared amenities.

“People are getting away from that 1950s concept of one house on one acre,” Enfinger said Tuesday. “And everybody’s trying to get away from a two-story house into a one-story house, so all of a sudden lot coverage becomes an issue.”

A decade ago, he said, 10 percent of Enfinger Steele’s home plans were single-story. That’s jumped to about 40 percent today.

“As people get into their 60s and 70s, they don’t like stairs as much as they used to,” said Enfinger.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes at its Aug. 23 meeting.

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