City of Lawrence

Planning & Development Services



David L. Corliss, City Manager



Scott McCullough, Director



September 19, 2011



Boarding House Text Amendment – TA-6-17-09 – Post Adoption Information




The City Commission requested information related to the text revisions adopted on January 25, 2011 that revised standards for Boarding Houses that included the following.


1.   Changed the term “Boarding House” in the definitions to “Congregate Living”.

2.   Limited expansions of any structure converted to the Congregate Living Use to no more than 20% of its current building footprint.  The adopted code language states:


a.   At the time of its conversion to the Congregate Living use and for the life of a Congregate Living use upon its establishment, the building footprint of a Structure containing a Congregate Living use shall not be enlarged greater than 20% of its existing building footprint, measured at grade and including covered (roofed) decks, patios, and porches


3.   Revised parking standards for Congregate Living and Multi-Dwelling Structures from .75 parking spaces per lawful occupant to one parking space per bedroom, except that, “Whenever a structure 3,500 gross square feet or larger as of (date of the ordinance) on a property 8,775 square feet in size or less is renovated as a Multi-Dwelling Structure or Congregate Living use, parking shall be provided at the overall rate of .5 spaces per one (1) bedroom.”


The City Commission recently considered an applicant’s request to initiate a text amendment to review the parking standard exception that allows large structures on small lots to maintain .5 spaces per bedroom in lieu of 1 space per bedroom.  The justification from the applicant was that newly available research demonstrates that the impact to the Oread neighborhood is too great under the adopted standards in terms of allowing too many structures to have the ability to convert to a Congregate Living use, f exacerbating parking issues in the neighborhood.


During the text amendment process, information was not readily available to reflect how many properties would potentially meet and be able to employ the .5 space per bedroom parking standard above.  Subsequent to the adoption of the amendments, staff did secure this information as discussed below.


The applicant for the most recent text amendment request has raised two issues – how staff interprets the size of a structure as it relates to complying with standards related to expansion and parking; and, whether the size of a structure able to use the .5 parking standard under the current interpretation is appropriate.  The applicant believes that the sizes of structures able to utilize the .5 parking per bedroom standard should be substantially increased or calculated differently to reduce the number of structures able to receive the parking exception.  These issues are discussed further below.


These issues arose after staff shared an email with stakeholders on March 2, 2011, subsequent to the adoption of the amendments, that informed the stakeholders that research indicated that 41 properties were eligible to receive the reduced parking standard and that further provided an interpretation that the calculation of the size of the structure could include the basement (finished or not) and all floor area within the exterior walls, but not include porches, decks, etc. (covered or not).  That email read as follows:


Dear Boarding House Stakeholders,


I am providing some information compiled by the Planning Office related to the recently adopted boarding house code amendments.  This info has been compiled in order to better understand where properties could potentially employ the .5 parking space per bedroom code standard.


The attached map depicts the Oread neighborhood and the parcels that meet the criteria of zoning and maximum lot area standards for congregate housing recently passed by the City.  The map shows the parcels meeting these standards that have structures with a total floor area greater than or equal to 3,500 s.f.  Also provided on the map in red dots are the properties that have been site planned for boarding houses (based from a list compiled by staff when the recent text amendments were drafted for review).


The second attachment is a table of the 41 parcels that meet the zoning and maximum lot area standards for congregate housing related to the reduced parking standard.  The table provides existing structure size information we received from the Appraiser’s Office.  Of particular importance is that this info is derived from Appraiser information and is a starting point for information about any specific property.  It is not a list that automatically qualifies a property for the .5 space per bedroom standard.


Additionally, staff has determined the following relative to the size of structures as they relate to qualifying for a .5 per bedroom parking standard:


The code states, "structure 3,500 gross square feet or larger..." on a lot 8,775 sq. ft. or smaller can qualify for the .5 space per bedroom standard.  While "gross square feet" is not a code defined term, Gross Floor Area is defined and is the most applicable to the context of what was meant to be accomplished with the amendment.  Gross Floor Area is defined as:


"The sum of the horizontal areas of the several stories of a Building, measured from the exterior faces of exterior walls, or in the case of a common wall separating two Buildings, from the centerline of such common wall."


The intent was to acknowledge large structures of livable or potentially livable areas (basements).  So staff's interpretation would be to include the basement (finished or not) and all floor area within the exterior walls, but not include porches, decks, etc. (covered or not).  Crawl spaces would not be included as a floor within the exterior walls.


I hope this information is helpful to you as we work to implement the recently adopted amendments.  Please pass it on to those you think may desire to view it.


End email.


The table and map included in the email, which reflected that 41 properties were potentially eligible for the .5 parking standard, have been shown to be inaccurate based on staff’s most recent research and analysis of County Appraiser data. Since providing the information to the stakeholders in March, staff has worked with the County Appraiser’s office to refine the data to capture more of the fields to better understand the structure sizes in the neighborhood.


The following table provides new, more accurate data of the potentially eligible properties in the RM32 district in the Oread neighborhood that could employ the .5 parking space standard. See map.




% of Total Development Parcels in RM32 District in Oread

Total Development Parcels in RM32 Dist. in Oread Neighborhood


100% of parcels

Current Total No. of Congregate Living Structures in Oread (site planned or nonconforming)



Parcels ≤ 8,775 sq. ft.



Structures ≥ 3,500 sq. ft. including basement



Structures ≥ 3,500 sq. ft. excluding basement



Parcels that meet both criteria to use the reduced parking standard under existing interpretation of including the basement (.5 spaces per bedroom)




Additional data:

1.   The average structure size in RM32 in Oread excluding basement is 2,171 square feet. 

2.   The average structure size in RM32 in Oread including basement is 3,104 square feet. 

3.   The average structure size for site planned or boarding houses recognized by the Planning Office as nonconforming is 3,365 square feet. 

4.   Of the 89 parcels/structures eligible to receive the .5 parking standard under the interpretation to include basements, 6 are site planned for the Congregate Living use, leaving 83 parcels/structures eligible to receive the .5 parking standard.

5.   Of the parcels eligible to receive the .5 parking standard if the code were interpreted to exclude basements, 3 are site planned for the Congregate Living use, leaving 10 parcels eligible to receive the .5 parking standard.

6.   The average structure size with basement on the 89 parcels meeting both criteria is 4,153 square feet.

7.   The average structure size without basement on the 13 parcels meeting both criteria is 3,963 square feet.


The data can be summarized by noting that a net gain of 83 new Congregate Living Structures are possible under staff’s current interpretation of the new code language.  This is 19% of the development parcels in the RM32 zoned district of the Oread Neighborhood.  If the interpretation is revised to exclude basements, the potential net gain would drop to 10 or 2.3%.


This is the whole of the “new” information compiled and submitted to the stakeholders after the amendments were adopted in January, 2011.  Staff believes that some will argue that the consequences of the amendments will negatively affect the Oread in terms of exacerbating parking issues, while some will argue that the amendments do not go far enough to “save” larger structures in the Oread.  Staff encourages the commission to be mindful that the parking revisions apply to Multi Dwelling structures as well as Congregate Living structures.  The Planning Commission preferred to let the market determine how a structure would be used.


To date, one application has been submitted and approved utilizing the revised parking standards.  The structure is located at 923 Ohio Street, is 3,889 sq. ft. on a lot that is 5850 sq. ft.  The request was to site plan the conversion of a 6-bedroom Congregate Living structure to an 8-bedroom Congregate Living structure with 5 parking spaces.


The issue, staff believes, is whether this new information generates a belief by the governing body that the consequences and impact to the Oread neighborhood of the recent amendments should be further studied to reduce or increase the number of potential Congregate Living uses in the neighborhood.  Under the current interpretation, approximately 20% of the properties can use the reduced parking standard. 


Throughout the amendment process, the Planning Commission and governing body found value in creating stricter standards for parking and structure expansion, but also desired that large, older structures be provided an incentive to remain in the neighborhood and be redeveloped in lieu of falling to the pressure of being razed and consolidated into larger multi-dwelling structures.  This was implemented by including language to provide a reduced parking standard for large structures on relatively small lots.  The Planning and City Commissions appeared to be seeking a reasonable number of properties that could utilize an automatic parking variance in order to protect/redevelop large, older structures.  While the commissions did not focus on achieving a certain percentage of properties able to meet this desire, the consequences of the amendments are now known to be about 20% of the Oread properties able to use the reduced parking standard.  Whether 20% is reasonable is the current question.


The applicant provided additional correspondence for the commission’s consideration.


Options to address this matter include:


1.   Maintain the current staff interpretation of how to calculate structure size, netting an estimated 83 properties eligible to receive the .5 space per bedroom standard.

2.   Increase the gross square feet of a structure from 3,500 to some agreed upon amount in the Development Code and maintain the interpretation to include unfinished basements in the structure size (requires a text amendment process).

3.   Direct staff to interpret the code in a manner that does not include basements or attics when calculating the size of a structure.  This would, in effect, reduce the number of structures eligible to receive the .5 parking space standard from a net of 83 properties to some other level (presumably a net of 10). (administrative direction – would not require a text amendment process)


Staff stands ready to act on the city commission’s direction on this matter.