The city of Hastings is taking action to facilitate the opportunity for affordable housing as well as simplifying residential zoning with a proposed code change.

Members of the Hastings Planning Commission voted 7-0 during their regular meeting Monday to recommend approval of amending city code for R-3 multiple-family residential districts.

Commissioners Eric Arneson, Rakesh Srivastava and Ann Hinton were absent. Alternate Willis Hunt was present.

This text amendment is intended to facilitate the elimination of the R-5 zoning district by incorporating the key lot size limitations within the existing R-3 district. The R-5 district is intended for urban single-family residential lots that are too small in size to meet the requirements of other zone districts. It has been in use since 2013, and includes two lots — one in west-central Hastings and one in east Hastings — which were rezoned into R-5 to legitimize their use.

Upon passage of this ordinance, the city’s development services department will reach out to the existing owners to allow administrative rezoning into the new R-3 designation.

The current R-3 lot size minimum is 6,000 square feet with a minimum lot width of 50 feet.

The proposed R-3 minimum is 4,500 square feet with a minimum lot width of 45 feet.

Development services director Don Threewitt said his department recommended approval and believes the zoning change will create new, affordable housing units in Hastings.

Hunt asked Threewitt if R-5 is spot zoning. Threewitt said spot zoning is an elusive term when it comes to different types of residential zones in the same vicinity, but it is a concern.

“By adding that flexibility into the R-3 district and bringing those undersized lots into R-3, it does eliminate that chance of it being spot zoning where it is,” Threewitt said.

Hunt asked and Threewitt confirmed that spot zoning is a violation of city ordinances.

“All zoning is spot zoning, it’s just a matter of how big the spot is,” city administrator Dave Ptak said. “This is a situation where if you looked at our official zoning map, where R-5 exists, it looks like our official zoning map has measles because it singled out single lots in other-zoned areas for R-5.”

After recommending approval of that zoning code change, the commissioners also unanimously recommend approval of a change of zoning from R-1 Single Family Residential to R-3 Multiple Family Residential for 736 S. Chicago Ave.

Habitat for Humanity approached the development services department earlier in the year to discuss a potential replat of the two lots at the address in question into equal 47.25 foot parcels, with a rezone to the existing R-5 zoning designation.

While the parcels did meet all criteria for the R-5 designation it was discovered the city’s intent was to phase out R-5 zoning entirely.

Therefore, an amendment to R-3 for undersized urban lots was considered as the most appropriate to accommodate the current lots as well as infill development.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners unanimously tabled the final plat for Pioneer Trail Flats Second Subdivision, a replat of lot 3, Pioneer Trail Flats Subdivision.

City administrator Dave Ptak also introduced new city attorney Clint Schukei, for whom Monday was his first day on the job.

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