The Aiken City Planning Commission will consider a recommendation to Council of an amended definition of a dwelling unit on Tuesday.


The item will be discussed at the Commission’s regular meeting, and it all comes down to what’s considered to be a kitchen. Currently, the City ordinance states that a dwelling unit is “a single housekeeping unit, whether in a single family or multi family structure, including at minimum, a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area.”


The proposed definition includes an explanation of what a kitchen is. Draft amendments to the City’s ordinance read that the “definition of ‘kitchen’ be clarified as follows: and including a stove with either burners or cook-top and oven” with the exclusion of cooking devices such as microwave oven or hot plates. A kitchen must also include a sink and “refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment.”


The amendment also states that a kitchenette is not a kitchen and is defined as “an interior area used for food preparation with facilities which are not sufficient to constitute a ‘kitchen.’”


Planning Director Ed Evans said that a project proposal that fell through in 2012 was the catalyst for Council asking the Commission to review the ordinance. That proposal was from Lenity Group which presented a plan of a 118-suite retirement facility to be constructed on 5 acres on Silver Bluff Road in the planned residential zone.


This caused some density concerns because under that zoning, 12 units per acre is the theoretical maximum. That meant that only 60 would have been permitted if those suites were considered dwelling units.


But without a kitchen, there’s no set limit to suites that aren’t considered dwelling units, though Aiken City Council has a say in how many are permitted. Lenity Group stated that its suites didn’t include individual kitchens, but its plan did show an area for a refrigerator, sink, a few cabinets and a space for a microwave.


The project was initially approved by the Planning Commission. But the Board of Zoning Appeals overturned the interpretation of the zoning ordinance that would have permitted the 118 suites, and the retirement facility was called off.


Preston Rahe, who filed for the appeal with the board, and John Veldman have been following this situation closely over the last year. In their opinion, the ordinance did its job in preventing the construction of a building that was well beyond the density requirements set by the City. Both say they’re not against the idea of the retirement facility but would have liked to see something less imposing – the proposed three-story structure was 41,460 square feet.


Rahe said he’d prefer the ordinance stay as it is with the Board of Zoning Appeals decision to be used as a guide.


Veldman said if the ordinance has to change, he’d rather it stay simple. Veldman said the proposed amendment is too specific, pointing out that the exclusion of one of the items that make up the kitchen definition could potentially make it easier for a developer to receive approval for a high density project in a residential zoning.


The meeting starts at 6 p.m., in Council Chambers upstairs in the Municipal Building located at 214 Park Ave. S.W.