Downtown zoning changes eyed in Durham

Town seeks more investment, development sought


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The town of Durham is taking a big step in its exploration of changes to its zoning ordinances in order to encourage more investment and development downtown.

Foster’s Daily Democrat reported that the Durham Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 12, on several Town Council-initiated zoning ordinance amendments aimed at more flexibility and encouraging  investment and development in downtown Durham.

In late 2016, the council referred a proposed zoning amendment to the board that made mixed use with residential a “not permitted” use in the central business district. 

But the council put off adoption after the planning board recommended against it.

Following that, downtown property owners joined in the discussion about development in the area, and agreement was reached to review zoning there. As a result, Councilors Sally Tobias and Al Howland, the town’s economic development director, Mary Ellen Humphrey, and the Economic Development Committee engaged in informal discussions with many downtown stakeholders, and those discussion led to the latest proposed zoning changes.

Among then: 

 • Allowing more flexibility in configuring office/retail and residential uses within a building by overall percentage of square footage rather than by designating uses by floor.

 • Increasing the allowable density of dwelling units from a minimum of 1,200 square feet of land per unit to a minimum of 600 square feet of land per unit.

 • Increasing the allowable density of occupants in an unrelated household in an apartment from a minimum of 600 habitable square feet to a minimum of 450 habitable square feet.

 • Increasing the allowable density of occupants in an unrelated household in an apartment from a minimum of 600 habitable square feet to a minimum of 300 habitable square feet where two out of three floors are used for office/retail.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Durham Town Hall.

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