City Planning Ordinance To Preserve Older Neighborhoods

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Some of Topeka's neighborhoods give the city its character, by their history and age.

The city's Planning Commission met to discuss how to preserve the unique appearance of those neighborhoods. The meeting focused on making sure specific neighborhoods stay the way they are while expanding.

Mark Galbraith is proud of where he lives.

As president of the Elmhurst Neighborhood Association, he's glad the city is stepping up to help preserve what he sees as special.

"They recognize that some of the neighborhoods do have common, unique kinds of characteristics and that adds value to the city as a whole," he said.

Bill Fiander, Interim Planning Director, said a proposed ordinance gives staff a chance to review projects when they come in to make sure they meet the design guidelines for that neighborhood.

"When new development or new construction in those neighborhoods come along there's no way to review the design of that new development so that it fits in with the neighborhood," Fiander said.

The ordinance would allow neighborhoods the choice to create new zoning districts called neighborhood conservation districts, or NCDs.

Each NCD would have its own set of rules that regulate new structures such as rooftop height, garage entry, lot size and fences.

"It's more to protect the neighborliness of the neighborhood so it's cohesive so that you recognize it as being an historic neighborhood," Galbraith said.

Fiander said adding structures that are not part of the set guidelines would be a deterrent on home owners from enjoying the neighborhood. "There's reasons people live in those neighborhoods because they like the way it feels and acts and looks."

The commission felt the 15 neighborhood organizations who attended a January 16 meeting welcomed the concept with enthusiasm and presented relevant questions.

"We think that it's right and we think this ordinance simply recognizes that and offers just a little bit of protection," Galbraith said.

The commission plans to include language in the final ordinance answering questions like dissolving NCDs and informing potential home buyers.

They will vote on it February 18.

The ordinance will not apply to commercial structures, only residential.