City considers zoning code updates

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — The first draft of the city of Sidney’s new zoning code was presented to Sidney City Council and the Sidney Planning Commission during City Council’s workshop meeting Monday evening.

The meeting was held by a hybrid method, with board members and commission members in attendance in council chambers and others able to join virtually.

The zoning code is being revised to come into alignment with the Sidney Comprehensive Plan, current innovations, and to organize the regulations in a manner easier for citizens to understand, said Barbara Dulworth, community development director.

Sidney’s current zoning code has been in place since June 22, 1953, with multiple revisions and updates over the years. City staff has been working with Sean Suder, founder and lead principal of ZoneCo, a zoning consulting business, since December 2019 to rewrite the code.

Suder gave board and commission members a presentation on the content updates of the Sidney Zoning Code. He began reviewing the current zoning code by comparing it with the city’s vision and also met with a Sidney steering committee to help direct him with the rough draft. In reviewing the current code, Suder found a patchwork of revisions in an effort to modernize the code that is not in alignment with the comprehensive plan or is very user friendly.

The project steps to create a modern zoning code for the “Sidney of tomorrow,” Suder said, included reviewing, analyzing and diagnosing the existing zoning code against the city’s vision for the future; drafting a menu of districts/zones; calibrating a draft of standards for each district/zone; and then presenting the first draft of content for Monday’s public workshop. Once the content is settled upon, graphics and charts will be added to help explain the code.

Suder suggested creating an “infill and mixed-use development” targeting downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, a new court square district (CSD) and new traditional neighborhood development (TND) to allow for “development patterns unique to these unique parts of the city,” as well as small lots in urban form. Across the proposed zoning map, he laid out several sectioned plan growth areas in residential and business zones in Sidney.

Commission member Heather Dunn asked if this is the time to expand Sidney’s current historic district. She was informed city staff could consider exploring that project after the zoning code was adopted.

After receiving council’s comments Monday, the draft will then move to the next stage of development by making it available for public review to obtain more feedback before returning to council for further consideration. Dulworth noted amid the COVID-19 restrictions, city staff was concerned with how to bring the information to the public without the ability to gather in large groups in a public meeting type of setting.

After a brief discussion of potential scenarios in the code, Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan expressed concern about making sure the public can review the draft and be aware the city is seeking feedback for the code update. Council discussed producing a recording of the meeting with the presentation for public review. Dulworth said staff will look into how best to make it available for easy review.

A draft of the code will return to council one or two additional times, Dulworth noted, before the new zoning code will be brought forth for a vote.

Commission Chair Tom Ehler was absent Monday and was excused by council.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.