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There is no change to the permitted uses in the “A4” residence district. The district has, since 1956, had as permitted residential uses “single-family dwellings” and “two-family dwellings.” The amendment to the code removes some of the restrictions and limitations on where the “two-family dwellings” could be built. The amendment also clarifies that “attached single-family dwellings” would be allowed but limited to no more than two units attached to one another on a lot.
The “A4” residence district has, since 1956, had as permitted residential uses “single-family dwellings” and “two-family dwellings”. The definition of “two-family dwellings” does not include any “multiple dwellings” which are defined as three or more units. Multiple Dwellings are not a permitted use in any of our “A” residence districts.
The existing City codes require rental properties to be registered with the City of Webster Groves. Landlords of multiple units are required to have their properties inspected at the change of each tenant for single-family and two-family rentals. Multiple unit dwellings are inspected on a three-year rotating schedule. One-third of all the units are inspected each year even if tenants have not changed. However, multiple unit dwellings are not a permitted use in any of our "A" residential districts.
Additionally, there are many limitations in the code that require development to be reviewed prior to the approval of any demolition or new construction. All structures over 50 years old must go through the Historic Preservation Commission to review the demolition request. New structure requests also have to be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board for the design. City Staff review the zoning, building codes, land disturbance, stormwater, tree preservation for all new construction.
Two-family housing was already allowed within the A4 Zoning Code since 1956 so making edits to clarify the use and dimensional regulations to this area was the easiest way to increase housing variety within Webster Groves.
The City did not recently eliminate garage apartments. The code has never allowed accessory dwelling units (residential units in or above detached structures) as an approved use to be rented out within the City of Webster Groves. The code does allow for an accessory dwelling unit for members of a family unit listed on the occupancy permit.
Council members have not spoken out on a preference for owned versus rented two-family housing. In video statements, a few Council members spoke about affordability around a price point of $200,000 per home. Councilmember Karen Alexander said, “this ordinance amendment provides options for a rich economic mix of purchase options, such as 2 townhomes with a $200,000-$400,000 price range, versus one $500,000 property. Or smaller properties with less maintenance which is desirable to young families and seniors that prefer smaller buy down options and less yard maintenance.”
Councilmember Laura Arnold did not mention a specific price point but said, “We have a growing problem with infill housing in which developers tear down affordable homes and replace them with new houses that are many times more expensive and much larger in size. This ordinance was designed to provide an alternative to those very expensive homes—two family homes that would be more moderately priced. These missing middle houses are not currently being built in Webster Groves and are very desirable for our young families, seniors and those who are looking to downsize to something smaller.”
Based on the maximum square footage allowed per the code, each attached home would likely only have two bedrooms. Two-bedroom homes are priced at a lower rate, even with high-end finishes. Most would fall within the $200,000-$400,000 price range mentioned above.
After receiving feedback from the community in a housing survey in 2019, the City Council adopted a housing goal (Goal #4 Council will evaluate and adopt code changes that would increase the density of affordable housing). While the Old Webster Redevelopment Project offers one method of increasing this housing, it is in early stages and it is to be determined through public hearings and Council decisions whether that project moves forward. The two-family text code Amendment was an additional way to offer these options separate from the Old Webster Redevelopment.
The “A4” Residence District includes approximately 5,560 lots. It is difficult to determine exactly how many lots would qualify with a number of requirements in the code including lot size, lot width, parking requirements etc. Approximately 50% of those lots would not qualify based on not meeting the minimum lot size and the minimum width of lot. That calculation uses St. Louis County Assessor’s data, which may contain irregularities due to the various shapes and boundaries of lot lines. There are other factors that would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis such as flood plain, lots in historic districts with demolition restrictions, lots with utility easements etc. To help put it in another perspective of new homes constructed: In 2020, 22 applications to build new homes were submitted. Of those, 8 would have qualified to build a two-family structure.
Staff have completed a new map that uses County data to identify additional lots that would likely not be able to build a two-family house. Due to data variations, the map will still not address the other factors such as flood plain, utilities etc. that would also restrict development. Those factors will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and working collaboratively with the owner/builder.
Updated 7/15 to include new map.
At the June 15 City Council meeting, the Council discussed this issue and it was determined that once the Council decides on an issue, it becomes the official Council decision – even if not unanimous. The City will not be including videos or information that are in opposition of a Council decision.
While City Hall has not allowed for in-person public attendance of meetings due to the pandemic, the meetings are not closed to the public. All of our Council meetings and Plan Commission meetings are broadcast on Zoom and residents are able to participate that way by listening and offering public comments verbally over zoom. Public comments can also be e-mailed ahead of time. Teleconference instructions are located here and that link also offers instructions for making public comments. Provided Covid-19 guidelines remain the same, in-person attendance at meetings will begin in August. People will be able to attend virtually via zoom or in-person from August onward.
While there was only one Council meeting held in the month of July, there were many opportunities for public comment about the zoning amendment change throughout this process. The timeline of this amendment change indicates that there were nine opportunities for public comments on the zoning amendment change over the past few years.
The Council and Plan Commission were both aware of the size of the A4 district and that roughly 50 percent of the homes within that district might not be eligible to allow a two-family dwelling based on lot size, lot width, parking requirements, etc. They were aware that the determination regarding each lot’s eligibility to allow a two-family dwelling would only be able to be made on a case-by-case basis with a detailed review of the lot width, area, parking capacity, and additional factors- as is true of every type of real estate development.
No community is ever static. For better or worse- through incremental and gradual adjustments and sometimes in more vivid and notable ways- communities are always changing. City staff and Council recognized that this was an instance in which an incremental approach could best serve the community’s needs within the City’s existing capacities. The approved changes would expand eligibility for two-family dwellings more broadly throughout the Webster Groves community, but in accordance with limited, specific, and fair standards largely already within the terms of the existing city code. Introducing additional two-family dwelling eligibility in the “A4” district could present an incremental, positive step towards generating greater opportunity for affordability and diversity of housing options in Webster Groves in a way that the city was assured would be manageable and not likely to overburden existing systems or infrastructure.
Before approving Bill #9145, the Council received 14 comments in support, 82 against, and there were 12 comments with questions where there was no sign of support or opposition.
You can view the original code with the requested changes here. The changes to the zoning code are written in red. Proposed amendments include clarifications to the use and dimensional regulations regarding single-family attached dwellings and two-family dwellings in the “A4” Seventy-Five Hundred Square Foot Residence District in Sections 53.073 and amended definitions related to these uses in Section 53.020.
All land in the City of Webster Groves is categorized into one of several different zoning districts. The City Code sets regulations on the type of development and uses that can be allowed in each zoning district and places restrictions on items such as the maximum size and height of buildings and the minimum lot sizes necessary to build something new in each district. Webster Groves includes four “A” Residential zoning districts. These “A” zoning districts primarily allow for residential development and related uses. There are ten additional zoning district categories that allow for commercial, industrial, large educational campus, and multiple family residential development uses in parts of the city.
The four “A” Residential zoning districts are categorized “A1” through “A4”. The primary distinction among the “A” districts is the minimum lot size and lot width required to establish a new buildable lot in each district and the minimum distances that newly built structures must be set back from property lines. In the “A4” Seventy-Five Hundred Square Foot Residence District, the minimum lot area needed to establish a new buildable lot is 7,500 square feet, and the required minimum average lot width and minimum lot width at the front yard setback line is 60 feet. The other “A” residential districts require larger lots, greater lot widths, and greater setbacks from property lines.
Though today the “A4” Residential District requires a minimum 7,500sqft lot area and 60ft lot width, these regulations were not firmly set in the City Code until 1956. Most of Webster Groves was developed prior to 1956, so there are many lots in the “A4” Residential District that are smaller than 7,500sqft and 60ft wide. About 46% of the “A4” lots in the city are smaller than today’s minimum lot requirements. The City Code allows these older, smaller lots to remain legally valid and to continue to be used for single-family dwelling purposes. New single-family dwellings can even be built on these older smaller lots- as long as the lot was established and occupied by a single-family dwelling unit as of 1956. But the Zoning Code does not allow these smaller, substandard lots in the “A” Residential districts to be used for any other purpose. Therefore, two-family dwellings cannot be allowed on these substandard lots, and can only be allowed on the “A4” lots that meet the minimum 7,500 square foot area and minimum 60ft lot width requirements. Approximately 54% of the existing residential lots in the “A4” zoning district are estimated to be eligible for a two-family dwelling should the property owner choose to build one.
It could be possible for some homeowners on larger lots to convert their existing single-family dwelling into a two-family dwelling. Each dwelling unit would be required to meet several conditions. Each unit would have to be physically adjoined to the other, but fully fire-separated by a fire-rated wall or floor assembly without any openings between units. Each dwelling unit would be required to have its own egress door directly to the exterior. Each dwelling unit would be required to include a fully functional and independent kitchen, bathroom, and living space, each meeting all life and safety occupancy code requirements. Each dwelling unit would be required to have at least one (1) off-street parking space located behind the front building line of the structure.
Notably, neither dwelling unit would be allowed to exceed a 0.16-floor area ratio in relation to the total lot area. On a 7500sqft lot, this would mean neither of the dwelling units could exceed 1,200sqft in floor area. Basement conversions would not typically be allowed because modifying a basement would not reduce the floor area ratio of the existing house below the maximum allowable limit. As a result, it would be unlikely for many homeowners to be able to convert a small portion of their existing home into a fully functional second dwelling unit that would leave significant space in their home for their own fully separate use. But it may be possible for those with homes on relatively larger lots in the “A4” zoning district to complete such a conversion with modifications.
Any such conversion would be required to go through a full building permit review process, requiring full occupancy inspections at all occupancy changes. Any changes impacting the exterior appearance of the existing home would be required to receive approval from the Architectural Review Board.
This ordinance does not allow a property owner to convert a detached garage, pool house, or other detached accessory building on their property into a separate dwelling unit to be rented out or sold to individuals who are not family members. The City’s regulations on two-family dwellings require each dwelling unit to be physically adjoined to the other as a single building, separated by a fire-rated party wall or floor assembly. By definition, detached structures cannot qualify. Due to associated functions of the zoning code, it would be nearly impossible for a property owner to convert an existing detached garage into an attached structure to circumvent the regulations requiring attached two-family dwellings.
On the other hand, the City Code has always allowed homeowners to construct or convert an existing detached garage or pool house into living space for an immediate family member and member of the owner occupant’s household for a so-called “mother-in-law” suite or for another family use such as a child returning home from college. These spaces cannot be rented out to individuals who are not a part of the owner occupant’s household unit. This ordinance has not changed these regulations in any way.
It could be hypothetically possible- though not very likely- for a property owner to be able to convert an existing attached garage into a code-compliant second dwelling unit. Upon converting their existing garage into a second dwelling unit, the property owner would be required to create at least two (2) parking spaces along the sides of the home or in the rear yard of their property. In most parts of the community where there are eligible lots in the “A4” district with existing homes with front entry attached garages, there is not sufficient space on the sides of the homes to create a code-compliant driveway extending down the side of the property to create a minimum two-car parking pad area in their rear yard. Additionally, each dwelling unit would be required to meet all the restrictions referenced above- including the requirement that neither unit could exceed a 0.16-floor area ratio in relation to the lot area (1200sqft gross floor area on a 7500sqft lot).
A two-family dwelling would be required to provide at least one (1) off-street parking space for each dwelling unit on the side of the home or in the rear yard. Provided the property has sufficient space on both sides of the home, this could be accomplished through two separate driveways running down the sides of the house with a standard 9ft wide parking space on each side. More typically, this would involve a single code-compliant driveway running down one side of the property to a parking pad with sufficient area for at least two (2) code-compliant parking spaces in the rear yard. All additional impermeable surface area generated by additional driveway areas would be required to be managed on-site, per the stormwater management regulations in Chapter 83 of the City Code.
If the property can not provide off-street parking spaces for each unit in the side or rear yards, the property cannot have a two-family dwelling.
This zoning code amendment was focused on the “A4” District because the “A4” District has always allowed two-family dwellings. In 1956, exclusionary restrictions were added to the City Code that segregated new two-family dwellings to only those city blocks in which 40% of the homes on the block already consisted of two-family dwellings. The 1956 restriction prohibited more affordable two-family dwelling housing types on all but a handful of blocks in the city. Today’s code amendment was designed as a focused change to remove that exclusionary provision from the City Code and expand eligibility for two-family dwellings to a much broader array of neighborhoods in the city. Approximately 1/3rd of residential lots scattered across the city have been made eligible to allow a two-family dwelling should the property owner choose to build one. At the same time, while eligibility has been broadened, the amendment presents only an incremental step towards generating additional housing options in the community. No property owner is being compelled to make any change to their property.
From 2014 to 2020, out of the approximately 5700 houses in the “A4” district, 79 older homes were demolished and replaced by new single-family dwellings. Forty-two (42) of the homes were located on lots that could be eligible for a two-family dwelling. The average size of those 42 original homes was about 1,200sqft, while the average size of the new houses that replaced them was about 2,800sqft. The amendment does not incentivize the teardown of any additional homes in Webster Groves. Rather it allows the City to have a conversation with a developer who has already purchased a smaller, older home and intends to demolish it. In those instances, the City may ask the developer to consider building a two-family dwelling of two 1,200sqft units rather than one house at twice the size and four times the price of the original home. If a developer then chooses to build a new two-family dwelling instead of a new single-family dwelling 25% of the time in which they already had their minds set on demolition, there might be 20 two-family dwellings built around the City over the next decade. That would mean a net gain of 20 moderately sized housing units in the community in 10 years, rather than only seeing those smaller homes replaced by much larger homes twice their size.
To figure out the approximate ratio of renters of single-family dwellings in the community, I went to the Census data from the 2019 ACS 5 year survey. I also used our inspection list of current apartments in multi-family buildings to subtract those units from the rental housing count. Since we don't have many existing two-family buildings now, the remainder of rental housing units seemed to be a good indicator of roughly how many single-family homes are being rented out.
*per 2019 5-year ACS estimates
Per Census data, it appears about 15% of existing single-family dwellings are being rented out and about 14% of total occupied housing units in the community are renters of single-family dwellings.
When notifying about ordinance violations, the building inspector initially sends a notice to the residents. Residents will then inform the City/Building Inspector if they are not the responsible party and if it is instead an HOA or condo association. The Inspector is able to get the condo association or HOA contact from the residents and notify them of the violation.
If the HOA is responsible for everything from the walls out, they would be notified of any exterior violations that might come up. If we do not have contact information for the HOA or the officers of the HOA, it can take a bit longer for the violation to be fixed, but ultimately the owners of the property are the responsible party in most code violation cases.
If Prop 1 passes, there will be no exceptions for duplexes on smaller lot sizes. If you have a lot smaller than the code requires for a duplex - if it is a legal lot of record - you would be able to build a single-family home on it. Your plans would need to be approved by the Architectural Review Board.
We don't have current 2021 data on that number. In 2019, staff pulled data from Zillow which identified the median sale price at $245,500. Staff also had pulled in 2019 data from the St. Louis County Collector of Revenues site which had a median sale price of $230,000 from October 2017 through January 2019. From the same data source the median sale price was $210,000 from November 2015 through March 2017.
Using St. Louis County data on all residential properties in Webster Groves the average is 1,818 square feet
The average build price for new construction for the last five years is $348,000. The average house size for new construction during that same timeframe was 2,812 square feet.
They would be required to have two separate services.
Chapter 82 of the City Code addresses stormwater. We didn't make any changes to that code as the same regulations would hold for a single-family as would for a two-family. They would need to meet all the regulations for how to retain stormwater on-site which would mean limiting overall impervious surfaces.
First, we would need to confirm that your neighborhood or blocks are currently zoned A4. If they are not, they would not qualify for the two-family housing. Currently, lots in all residential zoning districts have the height limitation to build up to a two-and-a-half-story single-family house. The code allows for the same maximum square footage and height for the two-family structures and the single-family structures. Duplexes are defined to include both side-by-side townhouse configurations as well as one unit built on top of the other.
The Floor Area Ratios have been in the code in all residential zoning districts since 2006. There is no correlation between the Floor Area Ratios and the recent text amendment for two-family dwellings. There is no timeline for additional text amendments for Two-family dwellings.
A zoning map for the City can be found here: https://www.webstergroves.org/DocumentCenter/View/143/Zoning-Map?bidId= There is also an interactive map here: https://webstergroves.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=284551609b944b39b65246c6cc5c786a These maps include the A1, A2, A3, and A4 residential districts along with all the other zoning districts within the City. The current text amendment did not modify anything in regards to multiple-family dwellings. Multiple Family dwellings are only located or allowed in the B1, B2, C, D, and PC Districts based on regulations in the code or site-specific ordinances. The Two-Family dwellings are allowed in the A4 and C districts under regulations that limit location based on the lot.
The ordinance change merely lifts lot restrictions on adding duplex housing into A4. The ordinance change has nothing to do with low income housing or section 8 housing.