Every new home and townhouse built in the City of St. Cloud will have to have at least 20% of the front facade covered with stone or brick, according to a new ordinance updating the city’s residential architectural standards.
The City Council voted 3-1 Thursday night to approve the ordinance despite pleas from homebuilders and the Chamber of Commerce to delay the vote. Taylor Morrison Vice President Heather Isaacs said they were excluded from any discussion of the new standards and only learned about them after the city’s Planning Commission voted to recommend denial last week.
“I was surprised to see the proposed ordinance on the agenda as to my knowledge there was no outreach done with the development community to understand the impact of these standards,” she said.
A second public hearing is slated for March 9, and city staff pledged to work with stakeholders to “tweak” the language before the final vote. If approved, the ordinance would take effect June 1 but would only serve as an interim set of rules because the city is waiting for final recommendations from a consultant hired to overhaul and update the standards.
“I guess my question would be why rush to adopt something now, rather than waiting?” Isaacs asked. “It’s likely to cause confusion among staff and delay project reviews.”
The interim version limits the use of stucco or siding to 40% of the primary elevation. It also strengthens regulations for windows, roof fenestrations, garage size and placement, among other things. It also says all building permits must be approved by City Council, a provision the homebuilders say would cause unnecessary delays.
Tina Demostene, entitlement manager for M/I Homes, said the ordinance may result in communities that are monotonous despite the intent.
“The brick and rock, I think, that’s really going to be a tough one to meet. And while I understand that the city doesn’t want a sea of stucco, there may be something like a monotony code where you say no more than one in five can be all stucco,” she said. “But you’re going to end up creating a neighborhood that’s all brick and rock instead of having a little bit of differentiation in the buildings — and there are some people that just don’t want brick and rock.”
The brick and stone mandate raised the most objections from developers, but a close second was a new townhome standard that requires a separate elevation, materials and color scheme for each individual unit in townhouse building.
“I also did not see an example of either a townhome or a single family detached unit that meets all of the standards in the ordinances. I think that’s going to be incredibly difficult for anybody to comply with,” Isaacs added.
Front-loaded townhomes would be permitted but only if the garage door comprises less than 50% of the front building facade. In other words, only single-car garages would be allowed for front-loaded units.
Dix Development CEO James Dicks also questioned the rules for townhouse building orientation, specifically the rear-loaded product where the front faces an open space or mew. Those communities are inconvenient for visitors who have to park on the street and walk around to the front of the building to reach someone’s front door, he said.
“Why do you even have a front door on the front of your townhome? So you can see your neighbor and you guys can look at each other through the Ring camera or something?” he asked. “But it just those are little things that I think you need to look at a lot harder. And that’s why you have a consultant. I think you can get a lot more feedback if the other developers and builders had time to come out and give that to you.”
St. Cloud is the latest municipality to vote on revamped architectural standards that could add to the cost of new home construction, coming on the heels of Osceola County’s recent effort. Both Osceola and Lake County staff sought input from homebuilders before bringing anything forward for a vote.
Councilwoman Linette Matheny said she has been “begging” for new architectural standards for six years, and she wasn’t interested in how it would impact the industry or add to construction costs. “I like the architectural standards that staff came up with, and I know they work very hard on it. And you know, nothing’s gonna be perfect,” she said. “I’m not surprised the building community is here arguing against it, because that’s what’s happened every time we’ve brought up architectural standards. That’s just what happens, right? So I would like to remind Council that it is a first reading. And so if there is some language that needs to be cleaned up that’s something we can work on between now and then.”
Councilman Kolby Urban said he welcomed the input from stakeholders.
“A lot of these issues can be worked through before the second reading, and I definitely will be paying attention to the changes that are made before that second reading — before I sign off my final approval on that,” he said.
Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.