Family Diversity
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Commission to define "single family" housing
Batesville Guard Record / December 6, 2005
by Andrea Bruner

City officials in Batesville, Arkansas have said many times the city needs a tighter definition of "single family" when dealing with code enforcement.

Monday night, the Batesville Planning Commission reviewed a proposed ordinance written by a local attorney, David Blair, at the request of the Eagle Mountain Homeowners Association.

"For several years there has been some interest expressed by the city as to what constitutes a single family," Code Enforcement Officer Chad McClure said.

Batesville's current definition partly states that a single family is any number of individuals living and cooking together.

"The problem is we've had complaints in R-1 (residential) zones," McClure said. Complaints have come from all parts of town, he continued, from the downtown area to College Heights to Eagle Mountain. "You can have a house with one kitchen" and those living there would be considered a single family.

"The vagueness prevents any type of enforcement," he said.

For Batesville to make the change, the planning commission would have to hold a public hearing, then make a recommendation to the city council, which has the final decision.

McClure said several cities around the state have tightened their codes to redefine single family. A stricter definition would provide more protection to R-1 zoning (which includes historical residential as well).

Commissioner Mickey Powell asked if there had been instances of "abuse" regarding multiple families in a home, and McClure said the potential is there.

"I know of one instance of it being abused for 30 years," commissioner Tommy Bryant said. "There have been complaints to city hall, but there is nothing in the code that strictly prohibits that. ... Certain instances have not been able to be addressed."

The commission also said it was not intended to stop unmarried couples from living together as a single family.

Kay Owen spoke on behalf of the Eagle Mountain group. "We're not trying to say everyone needs to be married," she said, pointing out the definition includes those in a close relationship. "We are by no means trying to exclude people who are not married to each other."

Betty Bess, another Eagle Mountain homeowner, said one of the residents had approached the homeowner's association because he learned a group of 10 people were wanting to buy a home. They were not related but worked together, she said. One problem would be the number of cars; the association requires cars to be housed in garages, Bess said.

The man asked the association if something in the bills of assurance would prevent the group's purchase of a home. The association then approached Blair about an ordinance.

Bryant pointed out that R-1 is the most restrictive zoning the city has. "Having that is recognition that it provides a certain amount of instrisic value to the community as a whole."

He said the city is obligated to protect residents in those zones.

The ordinance was tabled until next month for further review.



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