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What is the unified development code, why does it matter and what changes could be coming?

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Two chickens and a rooster are pictured Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Farmington. The City of Farmington is updating the unified development code and could allow residents to keep chickens, although roosters will remain prohibited.

AZTEC — A Farmington man who lost his job during the pandemic learned he could not easily sell a house he owns on Glade Lane because it is in a commercial zone, and Farmington does not allow houses in commercial zones to be rebuilt if they are destroyed by more than 50%. 

That meant buyers could not get financing.

The City Council granted him a variance on Dec. 8 and Farmington is now considering removing that prohibition, which is outlined in the unified development code.

The unified development code is a document that regulates all development within the city, including zoning, land use, development standards and subdivisions. It was approved by the City Council in 2007 and now Farmington is in the process of updating it.

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the proposed changes to the code during its meeting on Dec. 10, just days after the Farmington City Council approved that variance for a house on Glade Lane to allow the owner to sell it or refinance it.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting can be viewed at fmtn.org/AgendaCenter.

The owner of the house on Glade Lane is one of three Farmington homeowners who encountered the same problem this year.

“This is an antique portion of everyone’s code and it started in big cities that were trying to clean up blighted areas,” said Beth Escobar, the city planning manager, during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

And, as the city plans for the future, mixed residential and commercial use is becoming more common, Escobar said.

PREVIOUSLY:Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss updates to unified development code

There are several areas Escobar highlighted that currently have residential structures in commercial zoning. For example, Southside River Road is zoned industrial but has several older residential structures that are considered legal non-conforming. 

While this will help people who have houses in commercial areas, members of the Planning and Zoning Commission described it as a "Band-aid" that will not necessarily address the problem with non-conforming structures, which may need to be addressed through zoning changes. This could happen once the city completes its comprehensive plan update, which has been temporarily paused. 

Backyard chickens could be allowed in Farmington

A chicken wanders in a backyard on Webb Road in Farmington. The unified development code changes would allow all residents in Farmington to keep chickens.

The city of Farmington does not currently allow chickens in most residential areas. Only the rural agriculture zoning allows for fowl, which is classified as chickens, ducks and geese.

This could change with the new unified development code.

The draft version would allow fowl in all residential areas. There will not be a maximum number of birds allowed but an administrative review will be required if there are complaints. These birds cannot be kept within 10-feet of a neighbor’s dwelling. Roosters will not be allowed.

Political signs may not be allowed on public right of ways

A campaign sign for Anthony Allison is pictured on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018 along East Main Street and 20th Street in Farmington.

During election season, it is not uncommon to see campaign signs along major roads in the city. This would change under the new unified development code.

Temporary signs, including political, real estate and construction signs, would not be permitted in the public right of ways. Portable signs, like the folding signs some businesses have, are currently not allowed but could be allowed under the updated code.

Permits will be required for portable signs. This will prevent the businesses from placing portable signs blocking sidewalks.

The draft document also includes regulations for murals. There are currently no regulations for murals and murals are becoming more common in the city, especially in the historic downtown.

Food trucks, landscaping and other changes

Kelly Giroux gets lunch at InfiniteBBQ in Farmington on Nov. 9, 2019.

Some of the other changes include:

  • Adding regulations for mobile food units, such as where food trucks can be parked
  • Allowing separate electric meters for apartments and guest houses
  • Increasing landscaping requirements for parking areas such as parking lots and encouraging rainwater harvesting to supplement landscape irrigation
  • Adopting new street classification and design standards
  • Establishing a temperature range for colors of lights and including LED lighting
  • Allowing special use permits to be transferred with ownership and allowing the commission to set the time period for a special use permit

A redlined copy of the draft unified development code can be found at fmtn.org/886/planning.

Escobar said there will be chances for the public to provide comment, including during City Council meetings.

The final approval of the unified development code update is more than a month away and Escobar said that could occur in February at the earliest.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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