MORGAN CITY — Updating zoning codes with more emphasis on character, rather than land use, will give the city a more useful tool to use during the next 20 years in determining how it wants landscape to look and development to proceed.
That was the message Matt Bucchin of Sugar Land, Texas-based Kendig Keast Collaborative hammered home to a group of approximately 25 people gathered Wednesday at the Municipal Auditorium to hear about work being done to update the city’s zoning ordinances.
Kendig Keast, along with engineering firm T. Baker Smith, have been retained to help the city update its zoning ordinances, a plan that is intended to guide new development and existing conditions in Morgan City for the next 20 years.
Bucchin said the city would have to define the characters of the city’s different areas and then build homes and businesses to match that character — as well as meet the zoning standards in place, such as a business or residential.
“We’re trying to push the city away from a generalized plan based on land use,” Bucchin said.
As for buildings that already are here, Bucchin said the city could chose to either let them be grandfathered in or enact ordinances stating how long they have to update certain characteristics of their property to meet new standards. These changes could include screening in certain things or planting bushes.
Matte noted that if a hurricane destroyed grandfathered property, these properties might need to be updated to meet the codes.
In presenting an existing condition report, Bucchin said that many of the city’s issues would involve redevelopment over time
As for existing conditions, he said the city, whose land use is shaped by waterways, is not growing to the north, west and south.
The primary development is in the southwest, while undeveloped areas are in the northeast portion of the city behind David Drive.
Bucchin noted that the older areas of the city such as Klingsville Subdivision, Railroad Avenue and Mount Street areas, as well as the south end of Second and Barrow streets are starting to deteriorate, while Lakeside Subdivision and those in the northeast area of the city are in better condition.
Older areas are dominated by buildings constructed with siding and metal, while newer developed areas are constructed with more durable materials such as brick.
Bucchin said the durability issue, as far as future construction of facades, is something that the code will need to address if that is something the city is concerned about.
One issue that has been discussed is the parking of boats, RVs and utility trailers.
During a survey of each city street, T. Baker Smith determined the city is home to 285 boats, 62 RVs and 136 utility trailers.
However, no decision has been made on where these vehicles can be placed.
Alice Pecoraro, a First Street resident, suggested that the zoning ordinances for the Historic District need to be tightened up in such ways as requirements on parking, façade standards and the covering of metal buildings with stucco.
“Some of these things are in the existing ordinance, but I think these ordinances need to be tightened up,” Pecoraro said.
“I think we have a golden opportunity with our historic district,” she added, suggesting that it could lead to attracting tourists here like in other historic districts in other states.
Frank Judycki, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, said the success of anything the city finally adopts would depend upon enforcement.
“One of the problems I believe has always been that the city just doesn’t have the ability or the funds” to pay for an enforcement division in the Planning and Zoning office, Judycki said.
Judycki, a Lakeside resident, also noted displeasure with metal carports in Lakeside in lieu of those that tie-in to homes.
Bill McCarty, chairman of the city’s Board of Adjustments, which grants variances from city zoning ordinances such as these carports, said while he prefers the tie-in carports over the metal ones, he said the Board of Adjustments does not have the power to mandate these.
He noted that about 70 percent of the variance requests the board receives are for carports in Lakeside.
When granting the requests for the carports, he said the predicament is whether to not let people protect their cars and boats with the carports or to watch them move to neighboring communities and Morgan City lose a portion of its tax base.
McCarty also said it is not fair to these residents to not allow them to protect their property, considering many of these homes were built in the 1960s and early 1970s and the homes’ garages have since been closed in as families grew.
Bucchin said the procedures of the Board of Adjustments would be adopted.
In its work, Kendig Keast has utilized the existing plan as well as the 2002 Atchafalaya Gateway Initiative and the 2004 Main Street Program Master Plan.
Bucchin said that the 1972 plan and the city’s zoning maps are out of sync, making it hard now for the planning and zoning board to make a decision.
“When they go through a zone change, they have so little guidance that it’s tough to make a decision about anything,” he said.
Ironically, the 1972 zoning plan, developed when the oil industry had a much larger presence in Morgan City, projected that Morgan City would have 64,000 people by 2002.
Instead, the city’s population is 5,000 less now than it was in 1972.
“Many of the plan’s development assumptions are no longer valid,” Bucchin said of the 1972 plan.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the group also took a survey in which they were polled about their preferences of different aspects of the city, from screening and landscaping, drainage, outdoor display, and side and rear elevations.
The next step in the zoning work is for the steering committee members to review the future land use development plan and an annotated outline, which are expected to be posted on city’s website at www.cityofmc.com for public comments on Jan. 23.
By Feb. 6, committee comments will be due from the future land use plan and the outline, while on Feb. 24 a draft of the zoning land development code will be delivered to the city, incorporating all of the feedback Kendig Keast has received thus far.
On March 27, a joint meeting of the city council, planning and zoning commission, and stakeholders will be held to discuss the plans.
The city council is expected to consider the code and land use plan updates for adoption at its April 24 meeting.
In the meantime, the maps outlining the city’s existing conditions that were presented at Wednesday’s meeting will be posted on the city’s website in the coming days where the public can provide comments.
These comments will be received by City Planning Director Carl Kraemer and will subsequently be forwarded to the steering committee.