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Q&A: zoning and green building.

Q: I'm interested in building a multi-family apartment building on my lot. I've heard there's some kind of benefit to building green in regard to zoning laws in Asheville. Is this true?

Lee Skinner

Weaverville, NC

A: This is a good question and one that has no real definitive answer. Currently, the only permitting benefit to building green in the city is that you can pursue a "Development Standard Bonus." This allows flexibility in some of the city's requirements, such as increased density, flexibility in setback requirements (how far a house is from the road) or flexibility in the minimum lot size, for example. For a multi-family building, some of these benefits may be valuable, but you must provide at least three exceptional design features of which the following may be considered:

Higher-quality building design

Building design and orientation that are sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood and/or consider community heritage

Use of green-building techniques

Enhanced landscape above and beyond the required landscape improvements

Amenities such as parks, playgrounds, walking trails, benches, etc.

Environmentally sensitive design to preserve existing natural resources

Location along a major thoroughfare and/or minimization of the number of access points by using shared driveways

Pedestrian orientation and amenities

Transit facilities such as bus stop areas, covered benches, etc.

If you are able to provide three exceptional design features, then you have the opportunity to bring the project to Asheville's City Council for consideration: The unfortunate thing about this process is that by having to go to City Council, another step has been added to the process, and you will not be assured that your project will be approved. It takes more time, but, in the long run, you will help push along the green movement and feel great for bringing the city a better project.

One thing to note is Hat Asheville City Councilman Brownie Newman recently Stated "We should encourage green building by providing strong incentives such as enhanced fee waivers and tax rebates. I would also add streaming the entire

However, in other cities around the region, a push for benefits to building green doesn't seem to be in full swing. While there are many municipalities in the region that regulate development, few offer tangible incentives. One might expect a city the size of Atlanta to have incentive-based zoning for green building, but, at this time, they do not. Fortunately, many municipalities do allow and encourage green building and development patterns that are more environmentally sensitive.

David Tuch is the vice president of and land planner with Equinox Environmental, a local, multi-disciplinary design and planning firm specializing in resource conservation and Sustainable development. He is also an active member of the New Life Journal Green Home Experts Board. David can be reached by phone at 828-253-6856, email at David@equinoxenvironmental, or through the Equinox website at
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Title Annotation:HEALTHY HOME: green home resource[TM]
Author:Tuch, David
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:May 1, 2007
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