Columbus lowers building height limits

Published 1:47 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Columbus Town Council approved last Thursday amendments to the height restrictions in the town&squo;s zoning ordinance. This task has been one of many for the town&squo;s planning board to strengthen the town&squo;s ordinances to control development.

Council was given a few options and decided to approve the planning board&squo;s recommendation of 36 feet maximum for the general building height district, 29 feet for the courthouse building height district and 29 feet for the mountain view-shed district.

Formerly, the town&squo;s building height restrictions were 45 feet for residential districts, 36 feet in the central business district (downtown) and 50 feet for highway commercial, industrial and public service districts.

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Council also directed the planning board to work on amendments concerning how the heights are measured, especially for structures on slopes, and to possibly create limits for industrial buildings.

Most of the public comments last week concerned the building height decision. Some residents expressed disappointment that the planning board&squo;s recommendation was not being considered, and staff recommendations were placed in council packets instead. Council approved the planning board&squo;s recommendations rather than the staff ones.

Susan Johann, a member of the town&squo;s planning board, said it was very clear at the last planning board meeting that the 50-foot building height limit was not what members wanted.

A member of the Columbus Fire Department also spoke last week and said from a safety standpoint in case of a fire, nothing above 35 feet can be reached with the town&squo;s current equipment.

Scott Kelby of Forest City Land Group and Foster Creek Preserve, brought examples of two-story homes built on slopes that would not comply with the town&squo;s 29 foot restriction. He suggested ways to calculate the ridgeline, which the planning board will examine.

Other public comments during a public hearing on the issue last week pertained to protecting the town&squo;s mountain views and the view of the historic county courthouse.