City of Dayton making progress on Unified Development Code

Chris Woodson (center) with Landev Engineers and Jared Riggenbach with Baseline Professional Surveyors question Brian Mabry of Kendig Keast Collaborative about easements that could be used for bike trails and walkways after a Unified Development Code presentation Thursday at the Dayton Community Center.

The City of Dayton is creating a bible for builders – a Unified Development Code to reorganize the city’s regulations into a cohesive, coherent and consistent set of standards.

The UDC promises to be a user-friendly document that spells out to developers how land should be divided and used, how sidewalks and streets should be designed, and how outdoor signs should be erected and displayed.

Brian Mabry, principal associate with Kendig Keast, explains how a Unified Development Code will impact the City of Dayton during a public presentation Thursday at the Dayton Community Center.

The second of four modules that make up the UDC was presented Thursday night in a public meeting at the Dayton Community Center by Brian Mabry, principal associate with Kendig Keast, an Indiana-based firm hired by the City of Dayton to work on its Comprehensive Plan, Downtown Revitalization Plan and Master Parks Plan.

The first module, presented previously, addressed zoning districts and neighborhood development standards. Module 3 deals with building and site design while the fourth addresses enforcement and remedies.

“The Comprehensive Plan is a set of policies. It doesn’t carry the weight of law. It’s recommendations for how Dayton will grow in the future and it’s about land use, parks, transportation, infrastructure and things like that. It’s important and covers a lot of topics, but it’s not the law,” Mabry said to the handful of people who attended the meeting. “The Unified Development Code is the law that puts some of those policies into place.”

Mabry explained that a Comprehensive Plan might, for instance, say that a buffer should exist between residences and businesses, but a Unified Development Code would be specific about the requirements for the buffer space.

“Simplifying interpretations and increasing user-friendliness are things that happen when a city has a UDC,” Mabry said.

The UDC should not be confused with a city’s building code that addresses plumbing inside a building or how a load-bearing wall should be constructed.

“It’s not construction standards … It’s about how property is used, buffering, signs, street layout and the process of getting a variance or a subdivision approved,” Mabry said.

The biggest changes recommended for the module deal with street standards, open spaces and park standards, and easements for cross access, shared access and pedestrian access.

Cross access easements are mainly used for shopping centers that allow traffic to flow from one section to the next without exiting and reentering from the arterial roadways. An easement would prevent a property owner from restricting traffic by blocking off an access point. A cross access easement could also be used for multi-family housing units such as apartments and condominiums.

Under the current draft, pedestrian access easements would be required for any block greater than 800 feet in length. Handicapped-accessible trails or sidewalks would have to be provided between parks, schools, residential areas and employment centers, Mabry said.

“One of the main parts of the new draft regulations has to do with how streets connect up with each other. It’s good to have interconnected streets so people can get around more easily and they don’t have to drive a really long, circuitous route to get back onto the main arterial [road],” Mabry said.

Two attendees at the presentation Thursday — Chris Woodson with Landev Engineers and Jared Riggenbach with Baseline Professional Surveyors — are involved with the River Ranch Development, located along US 146 South of Dayton near CR 1413. River Ranch is projected to add as many as 14,000 new homes to the Dayton area.

Both Woodson and Riggenbach say they have worked with other cities in the Houston area that have UDCs in place and are happy to see Dayton moving that direction.

“We were surprised when we first started on the project in Dayton. We are used to doing things in the city of Houston. When we started getting into Dayton, we found the rules are vague. It’s left to interpretation, so having a UDC will be a good thing,” Woodson said.

Neither one is concerned that the rules will be restrictive for their projects.

“It doesn’t seem like a revolution so much as a reorganization. It’s cleaning things up, so to speak. For the developer, the less ambiguity and the more clear the requirements, the better,” Riggenbach said. “Every jurisdiction is a little different. When you get a first-class development code like this, where everything is online and plainly spelled out, it makes it a lot easier. It’s a good thing for your community.”

Woodson agreed, adding that he is excited about the future of Dayton.

“I see good things coming to Dayton,” he said.

The next module will be presented in October with a policy committee and open door meeting set for Nov. 8.

By Vanesa Brashier, editor@BluebonnetNews.com

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