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Wesley Chapel approves changes for senior housing

The Village of Wesley Chapel Village Council voted Monday night to approve several amendments to the village’s recently added senior housing regulations after a developer requested that changes be made.

However, the council voted 3-1 to deny one amendment that the active-adult community developer, Epcon Communities, requested. That amendment would have allowed density calculations to include floodplains and wetlands in computing minimum lot sizes.  Council Member Becky Plyler voted in favor of the amendment.

The council’s actions come after the owners of almost 1,000 acres, about one-fifth of the village’s land, requested to be de-annexed from the village last year because its residential zoning requires at least 40,000-square-foot lot sizes, or just under an acre. That requirement makes their land unattractive to developers who say that building such low-density housing is cost prohibitive because of the rising costs of land and construction

The council voted 3-1 on three other Epcon requests. Councilwoman Jeannine Kenary cast the only no vote on each amendment. She could not be reached for comment. The approved amendments were:

* Reducing the front-yard setbacks from 35 feet to 20 feet as the Planning Board recommended. Epcon requested 15-foot setbacks.

*Requiring driveways to have a minimum length of 25 feet, which the Planning Board accepted.

*Requiring one dedicated off-street parking spot for every six housing units, instead of one off-street parking space for every three units; the Planning Board recommended that the change should be approved.

*Allowing interior lot rear-yard setbacks of 10 feet. Epcon requested 5-foot rear-yard setbacks and the Planning Board recommended 15-foot setbacks.

The council voted unanimously to reduce a required 40-foot screened buffer for the side and rear lot lines of such a development to 30 feet and to create a 10-foot setback from the structure to the edge of the property’s rear yard.  The Planning Board recommended that single-family homes and duplexes have a 15-foot setback from the structure to the edge of the property’s rear yard.

The votes came after a public hearing on the amendments.

At that hearing, resident David Grimm said he believed the council shouldn’t approve any of Epcon’s requests and that he worries that senior housing will lower existing property values in the village because people move there for the rural characteristics of the village.

The council also voted 4-0 to send a proposed ordinance that would add conservation zoning back to the Planning Board. The proposal called for the creation of conservation subdivisions, and for those to be at least 15 acres, which is the same minimum size as the recently added senior housing conditional use the village added to its zoning ordinance in May.

Up to 30 percent of the lots in conservation zoned subdivision would have to be at least 30,000 square feet and at least 15 percent of such subdivisions would have to be set aside as conservation areas that can be used as open space, common space or passive recreation.

The council doesn’t want to set a minimum size for conservation subdivision because any kind of conservation is good, Mayor Brad Horvath said Tuesday.  The council members felt it would be appropriate to have the Planning Board take a look at the proposed ordinance again and propose additional changes.

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