Cedar Hills Blog

City Ordinances and Design Guidelines

Sat 02 November 2013 development

A number of people have asked about city ordinances as it relates to commercial development. In this post, I'll give a brief overview of city code in this area. This includes permitted uses, building height, and authority of the planning commission and city council to impose conditions on any development.

SC-1 Zone

Section 10-3-1 establishes the SC-1 Shopping Center Zone. The city web site has a map of all the zones.

Article E discusses the SC-1 Zone. 10-4-E-1 states the intent of this zone:

The SC-1 zone is established to provide an area in which the primary use of land is for commercial and service uses to serve the needs of the community and surrounding area and is located in the portion of the city most appropriately suited for the purpose. It is intended that development within the zone shall be characterized by a harmonious grouping of commercial stores and shops and essential ancillary uses (parking, signs, landscape features) architecturally designed and functioning as an integrated unit. Clean, well lighted parking lots, readily accessible from adjacent streets, and attractive, well maintained shops with significant peripheral and on site landscaping will be characteristic of development within this zone. It is the specific intent that architectural design and character of operation shall, to the maximum extent possible, be compatible with that of surrounding residential environment, and review, approval and attachment of conditions upon development within the zone will be predicated upon the accomplishment of this objective. (Ord. 10-11-95A, 10-11-1995)

A couple of important things are embodied in this code, namely that the primary use of the land is for commercial use, and that the operation of the commercial property shall be compatible with the surrounding residential environment. Conditions can be attached to the approval of development of the zone to ensure these objectives are met.

In other words, if residents feel that conditions need to be imposed regarding density, size, or location of buildings within the SC-1 zone, this is within their right to request these conditions from the planning commission and city council.

10-4-E-2 gives the permitted uses of this zone, which includes agriculture, planned commercial developments, and public utilities.

Commercial Development Guidelines

Section 10-6-A describes planned commercial developments allowed in SC-1. 10-6-A-2 lists use requirements:

Conditional Uses: Buildings, structures and uses of land listed as conditional may be permitted within a planned commercial development project, subject to compliance with applicable requirements of this title and those contained within the document "Guidelines For The Design And Review Of Planned Commercial Development Projects", and after approval has been given by the designated review agency.

The rules governing commercial development are listed in a separate document known as our Design Guidelines, which give broad latitude to the planning commission and city council.

In this document, on Page 31, you will see a map that divides the SC-1 into three sub-districts: Neighborhood Retail (the area closest to 4800 West), Mixed use Office/Retail (the area by the roundabout and bordering homes on 9980 N), and Mixed Use Office (covering the church, dental offices, and the Charleston).


Interestingly, the area owned by the city is not included in this map, perhaps because that area was purchased with recreation development impact fees, and was originally intended as the location for a park or recreation center.

Page 6 describes these areas in more detail.

Neighborhood Retail

This is the area fronting 4800 W.

The Neighborhood Retail designation is intended to accommodate the most intense land uses within the Commercial Master Plan. This designation is established to promote retail commercial and service uses for the convenience of surrounding residential neighborhoods. The standards incorporated within this designation are intended to promote a combination of retail and service facilities that, in character and scale, are necessary to meet the day-to-day needs of area residents. Uses typically found within the Neighborhood Retail area include: grocery stores, personal service establishments such as dry cleaners, bakeries, restaurants and specialty shops such as florists and sporting goods operations.

Mixed-Use Office/Retail

This is the area owned by the Smart Family by the roundabout.

The Mixed-Use Office/Retail designation is intended to accommodate less intense uses than found in the Neighborhood Retail designation. The lower intensity may be due to size, scale and height of the structure or due to a less-intense land use. Along with office uses, limited retail uses including specialty shops, dance, fitness and self-defense studios, along with residential uses are permitted within this area.

Mixed-Use Office

This is the area already developed, with the church, dental buildings, and the Charleston.

The Mixed-Use Office designation is intended to accommodate the least intense land uses and to provide a buffer to existing or future single-family residential areas through landscaping, setbacks, building heights and land uses. Also, any retail uses in this area shall help create a transition from the more intense uses in the other areas to the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Building heights within this designation are limited to those height restrictions found within adjacent residential developments. Community services such as libraries, city hall, public recreation facilities are permitted.

Permitted Uses

Page 7 of the Design Guidelines discusses the permitted and conditional uses of the SC-1 zone, and no uses are automatically permitted. This means any development in the zone is conditional on approval of the planning commission and city council. Specifically:

To receive approval for a conditional use listed in the chart below, the burden of proof shall be on the applicant to demonstrate that the use is appropriate for the property or parcel under consideration. All conditional uses are required to comply with the conditions of approval imposed by the Planning Commission and/or City Council. Such conditions shall be imposed to mitigate or alleviate any expected or foreseeable adverse impacts the proposed conditional use may have on adjacent uses or the surrounding area. Typically, conditions of approval address issues such as noise, lighting, traffic and aesthetics. Even so, the City shall impose any and all conditions they find to be necessary to protect the integrity and quality of the master planned area or the surrounding neighborhoods.

There is broad latitude for the city to require conditions or to deny development if there are negative impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

Page 8 of the Design Guidelines describes the conditional uses. Of particular interest is "Residential, attached units", which is a conditional use but with a footnote. In the Office/Retail sub-district, residential units are allowed when "ancillary to a retail or office use". Ancillary is specified to mean "less than 50% of any given structure" and "is permitted only on the second level of the structures." Some of the wording is confusing here. I will suggest the planning commission revise and clarify this.

Note that, also on page 8, the Design Guidelines do allow conditional use of an "Assisted living, convalescence home". I will suggest that the planning commission clarify whether the current development proposal qualifies under this category or as a "Residential, attached unit".

Height and Size

Page 16 discusses structure height for the Mixed-Use Office/Retail Development sub-district.

One to three story buildings are permitted although two-story buildings are encouraged in order to more fully convey the desired architectural theme. Buildings within the Office/Retail Development may be erected to a maximum height of thirty (30) feet. An additional height bonus of one (1) foot per additional two (2) foot increase from the required setback may be granted, up to a maximum height of fifty (50) feet occupied space, with unoccupied space approved by the City Council with a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission may increase the required setback or require additional architectural elements for buildings taller than thirty-five (35) feet, if after due consideration, feel it necessary to mitigate any negative impacts that the proposed development may have on the residential development. Height is measured from average, finished grade to the top of cornice or parapet for flat roofs, and the midpoint of rake for sloped roofs.

The intent of the sub-district is to allow two- and three-story buildings, though the planning commission may allow buildings that are a maximum of 50 feet tall, with some conditions.

Subsequent sections also say that the building size shall be reviewed and approved by the city council, subject to placement, aesthetics, noise control, lighting design, traffic control, etc. to "give the feel consistent with the overall commercial development, as well as the community as a whole."

Additional Latitude

Additional parts of city code give the city wide latitude in placing conditions on commercial development. Section 10-6-11 states that

The planning commission may increase standards where it is determined that such increased standards are necessary in order to ensure that the development will mesh harmoniously with adjoining or nearby uses of property and are necessary to carry out the intent of this title.

Section 10-6-11 states

As a means of harmonizing development within the project with existing and planned development within the surrounding area, the planning commission may, as a condition of its approval, specify or require changes in the minimum and maximum height of buildings and structures, the type and style of architecture, the character and nature of landscaping, the choice of building and plant materials, the pattern of circulation, the location and siting of buildings, fences, walls, utilities, lighting and sprinkling facilities and other structures, as well as the nature and extent of drainage facilities.

Both of these are part of 10-6 discussing Large Scale Development, which includes planned commercial developments and the design guidelines discussed above.


Upon examining city code and the design guidelines, I do not think the current development, as proposed, fits our design guidelines. The guidelines state in numerous places that the development must be in harmony with the surrounding community and should not have negative impacts to residents. A large, four-or-five story apartment complex will have significant impacts in terms of size, density, traffic and parking that are are not a good match for the neighborhood. In addition, the guidelines seem to indicate a preference that residential development near the roundabout is restricted to the second floor and a maximum of 50% of each structure. An exception is made for an assisted living home, but it is not clear to me whether the proposal falls under that category.

Some have questioned whether the city may legally make restrictions on the development. It is clear that the planning commission and city council have a wide latitude to impose numerous restrictions on development in the commercial zone to ensure that surrounding neighborhoods are not adversely affected. While I support commercial development in our city, I think this particular proposal needs to be re-worked. I support having a mix of restaurants and retail spaces, but the residential development has to be in harmony with our guidelines and the nearby neighborhoods.