A proposed change to Tooele City’s residential building height restrictions will give homeowners and developers greater freedom to design structures as they please, while simplifying the city building code, city officials say.
Tooele City ordinances currently restrict the height of structures built in most residential zones to a maximum of 35 feet. However, the rule is not universal throughout the city.
A sensitive lands overlay on the southeast side of town above Skyline Road imposes further restrictions, limiting construction in the area to 28 feet. The spread of requirements and the resulting confusion made the ordinance difficult to enforce, said Jim Bolser, Tooele City public works director.
The city’s proposed amendment to the building ordinance would lift the sensitive lands restrictions and apply the 35-foot maximum to future development on all residential properties in Tooele.
“This gives more flexibility to future builders,” said Bolser. “We have had building permits come through that would have been allowed [under the amended ordinance]. We’re just trying to even the playing field, is what we’re doing.”
The suggested changes also clarify how building height will be measured in Tooele. Under the proposal, the total height of the building between the lowest point of elevation and midway up a pitched roof cannot exceed 35 feet on any residential lot. This will eliminate some confusion about the height of structures with walk-out basements, which previously inspired some controversy, added Bolser.
It isn’t entirely clear why homes above Skyline are subject to additional building height restrictions, he said. The sensitive lands overlay apparently went into effect in 1994, but Bolser was unsure why the restrictions were put in place. Most likely, he said, the overlay was intended to preserve the viewshed and eliminate the need for extensive retaining walls.
However, he believes the overlay is difficult to enforce, and is probably unnecessary thanks to modern advances in technology.
“Twenty years ago, if you were retaining a slope, your wall would be substantial,” said Bolser. “Those concerns are still there, but we’ve reached a point where we’ve minimized those concerns.”