City Council Approves New Zoning Codes With Changes Still Coming

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- City leaders agreed that all future home builds in Des Moines will be between 1,100 and 1,800 square feet, with a single car garage or shed depending on number of stories and location.  "we want to make sure there is quality.  We want to make sure we`ve addressed public safety and health concerns and make sure somebody who invests in a house and buys one that twenty years from now it still a quality place," said Mayor Frank Cownie.

The ordinance received yes votes from all council members except City Councilwoman Linda Westergaard who was disappointed that more changes to the ordinance are inevitable. "There’s still all these things that have not been decided yet and now we are going into January and February and we could have had all this done and should have had it done last summer," she said.  At-Large City Councilman Chris Coleman sees it a different way.  "Phase two isn`t gonna wait forty years, it`s gonna start next week in November and December.  The planning and zoning and city council will vote on it.  We will get a whole slew of new amendments already passed," said Coleman.

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the United Way of Central Iowa were early critics because of the size of homes they build for charity.  "The reality is if you are in the neighborhood of 600 square foot homes with wide fifty foot lots and no garages we can’t be expected to build an 1,100 sq foot home with a garage and expect for the bank to appraise that and expect someone to come buy it," said Dan Knope, Executive Officer of Homebuilders Association of Greater Des Moines.  The groups in opposition were also worried the minimum size requirements would price out potential homebuyers but the council is allowing an 18% variance on home size.  "You can build a house as small as 1,000 square feet and there`s situations where you can avoid a basement especially for people disabled or special needs," explained Coleman.

The ordinance also includes a maximum limit of 120 days on non-owner occupied temporary rentals like Air BNB but the council hopes an amendment in the spring will change that.   Coleman said, "It would allow somebody to do it year-round as long they have rental certificates and every five years they go before board of adjustment to get a special use permit."

The new ordinance takes effect December 16th...Coleman said the next round of hearings for amendments are set for December 2nd, 9th and 16th.


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