Corinth structures not up to code can be registered

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City to grandfather in elements that don’t comply with new rules

CORINTH — Homeowners affected by Corinth’s adoption of new and revised design standards have one year to voluntarily register any structures that don’t conform to the new code.

Earlier this month, City Council members adopted a Unified Development Code — a guide that includes development-related regulations such as zoning requirements, ordinances, subdivision regulations and other design and development standards.

The registration for homeowners is a process to grandfather existing structures and property features that don’t follow the new code but were legal when they were constructed. In other words, residents who register nonconforming structures will be allowed to keep them, and rebuild them if they are ever destroyed.

The existing structures or features may include garages, sheds, storage facilities and carports.

During a council meeting, City Manager Jim Berzina said the goal of the code is to simplify regulations and to address future growth that’s in line with the city’s 2010 comprehensive plan.

The code prevents overlapping, conflicting or inconsistent growth and provides one set of rules for all developments, he said.

“We don’t want to have a bunch of inconsistent developments scattered throughout the community,” Planning Director Fred Gibbs said during a recent council meeting. “We want to have some meaning to it.”

Failing to follow the city’s new code could result in fines ranging from $500 to $2,000, staff members said.

“When a developer comes in and we approve the design plans, the structure is subject to a code inspection,” Mayor Paul Ruggiere said. “Enforcement will only happen for new structures, not existing.”

Officials said they aren’t sure how many residents are affected by the code change, but the mayor said there are “several.” By adopting the development code, the council also approved the rezoning of a few areas in the city, which affected 44 residential properties and an unknown number of businesses.

“We rezoned because we have new categories,” Ruggiere said. “For example, we had light industrial 1 and 2, but now it’s just called industrial. We also created mixed-use commercial, which could be a business that has apartments on top, which is something we never had.”

Property owners or businesses affected by the zoning change have until Aug. 2 to fill out a request to have a zone altered.

“Some owners might not like the changes, so we’re giving them about three months to approach the council and state their case for free,” Ruggiere said. “From that, we’ll see if we can reach an agreement.”

Applications for zoning changes and nonconforming structures can be found at City Hall or by searching Unified Development Code on Corinth’s website. The code was developed over the last two years to create an easy-to-use list of regulations that developers can use.

“All of our ordinances were evolutionary and developed over time,” Ruggiere said. “We would have a three-ringed binder of ordinances for developers, and it just created problems every time.”

Many of the city’s previous development-related ordinances overlapped and conflicted with each other.

“Sometimes we weren’t aware of the problem until the final steps of approving the designs and plat for a project,” Ruggiere said.

The development code will streamline the process and remove hangups the council has experienced in the past, he said. It eliminates the gray area previous ordinances created, city officials said.

“It takes away much of the confusion,” Ruggiere said. “I’m glad it’s done. It’s made to help improve the product that we call the city of Corinth.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.


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