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Countryside considers revision to front yard setback code

COUNTRYSIDE – The Plan Commission is considering making a recommendation to change to the city's 30-foot front yard setback standard based on varying lot sizes throughout the city.

The commission discussed a revision to the city's zoning code at its Sept. 10 meeting, tabling a decision on a recommendation to the City Council until its next meeting Oct. 1. 

The city's zoning code currently requires that front yards extend at least 30 feet from the street to the front of the house. On blocks with larger lot sizes, though, houses are often set back 50 or more feet, and there is interest from those areas in increasing the setback standard. That would prevent residents from building new houses that are closer to the street than neighboring ones.

"Here's a town that came in piece-meal … and of course nobody wants a half-acre with a little ranch on it any more," said Alderwoman Karen Michalczyk of Ward 2, where most houses are built between 40 and 60 feet from the street. 

At least one new residence in Michalcyzk's ward was nearly built 30 feet from the street before the resident was persuaded to have the home built in line with the existing houses. 

But an increased setback requirement would make it difficult for homes being built on some of the city's smaller lots. 

"Thirty feet is not a magic number. Fifty feet is not a magic number," said Richard Fullmer, the Plan Commission chair. "It just has to be what's best for a community so that it doesn't look like a hodge podge … But you just can't do 50 feet citywide because it's just not possible [for smaller lots]."

Fullmer said there are a number of interests to consider in determining the setback requirement. Houses set back farther from the street are more removed from traffic and have longer driveways, which also means more ground to shovel when it snows. Shorter setbacks leave more room for back yards but are closer to vehicles passing by. 

"When it comes to something like this, you have to sit down and think about it and walk around your ward," Fullmer said. 

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