FAR ordinance and front porch incentive approved by Council
Posted on 08/06/2020
City Hall

City Council recap of Aug. 3 meeting

Ordinances approved
– Two ordinances for single-family dwellings were adopted by Council after waiving the second reading – one pertains to the mass of a house in relation to the lot size (Floor Area Ratio or FAR of .36 percent), the other incentivizes having a rear garage (attached or detached) by allowing up to 4 feet of a front porch in the front setback, and excluding that portion of the porch from the lot coverage requirement. The front porch ordinance also addresses porte-cocheres. 

Three members of the public commented on the FAR ordinance. Don Courvisier, 374 S. Wing, opposed the .36 FAR but favored a .4 FAR, warning that the current FAR will bring down property values, and wanted it to be a ballot issue. Greg Swanson, 542 Carpenter, said the garages should be included in the mass. John Forslund, 350 Lake, said he appreciated the work the Planning Commission and City Council did on the measure and stated that it should not be a ballot issue.

Council Member Barbara Moroski-Browne asked that any architectural features not specifically defined in the table of examples be brought by the building official to the Planning Commission for review and direction of whether or not it should be considered as part of the mass of the building. After discussion among Council members, as well as with City Planner Sally Elmiger, City Manager Pat Sullivan and three Planning Commission members who were on the call (Tom Berry, Steve Kirk, Donna Tinberg), the administrative plan will direct the building official to report to the Planning Commission when he makes a determination on a structural element not listed on the table of included and excluded items for FAR. This provides a feedback loop and flags any issues. The ordinance takes effect on the eight day following publication and anyone who submits their building plan and application to the City before that time will not have to conform to the .36 FAR ordinance. View the amendments to the ordinances on the website.

Ordinance for sidewalk cafes being updated – Due to the expansion of the outdoor seating area for restaurants and bars in Downtown Northville and the pending state application to institute a new social district, the City Ordinance for Sidewalk cafes requires a change regarding how alcohol is prepared and served outdoors. The ordinance change would remove the sentence “All alcoholic beverages to be served at a sidewalk café shall be prepared within the existing restaurant, and alcoholic beverages shall only be served to patron seated at tables.” It was the first reading of the ordinance; the second reading and pending approval will be at the Aug. 17 City Council meeting.

Built-in contingencies for construction projects – Due to unknowns encountered during recent road construction and sanitary sewer construction, Council has agreed to approve contingencies of 10% on these projects to avoid costly downtime and enable contractors to finish the job on schedule – without delays caused by waiting for the next City Council meeting to review and approve change orders. Some of the unknown problems that occurred during summer construction range from finding valves from the late 1800s and discovering naturally occurring artesian springs, to tree stumps being paved over during previous road construction rather than removing them. The finance director will create protocols addressing disbursement of contingency funds. At the end of the project, a balancing change order will be issued to reconcile the contract to the actual amount spent.

New signage and logo approved – DDA Director Lori Ward presented a branding package to Council that includes new signage at entrances to town and at City buildings, along with a new logo design to be used on City stationery, signage, vehicles and other materials. The DDA’s Design Committee served as the steering committee for the project. The package was designed by Bizzell Design, of North Carolina, which previously developed the wayfinding signs for Downtown Northville. The graphic design package shown was well received and approved by City Council. Initial cost is approximately $75,000 with additional costs for implementation. The next step involves fabrication and installation of signs. The finance director will develop a budget amendment since the expense was initially planned for the 2019-20 budget year, but was set back by the pandemic.

Social district – DDA Director Ward provided an update on plans to secure a Social District in downtown Northville. (The state legislature allows such districts outdoors with common areas for alcohol consumption through Dec. 2024.) Council passed a measure that has three components: 1) application to the MLCC for the Social District, 2) a maintenance and management plan, and 3) a resolution of support for the restaurants/bars within the district that apply for the Social District permit. (There are eligible nine restaurants/bars that could apply.) Speaking in favor of the social district were Shawn Riley, 335 Eaton Dr., a realtor, musician and chair of the DDA board; and Brian Maiorana, owner of 160 Main, a Sicilian restaurant.

There were no public comments aside from agenda items.

Council communications: Mayor Brian Turnbull thanked the people in Northville who are working together to help each other out and said, “We are stronger together.”

View video of the meeting.