Can front porches be a catalyst for making neighborhoods more interactive with residents sitting on the porch and talking with the neighbors who stroll past? A renewed interest in adding porches has popped up in Roeland Park.
Front porches are one concept that is part of the new urbanism that brings back more of a neighborhood feel, Roeland Park Building Inspector Mike Flickinger told the city council this week. But in Roeland Park, covered front porches cannot extend out into the required yard setback more than six feet or have more than 60 square feet of roof area in the required yard space. That applies to porches that extend over the required set-back line for the front of the house, Mayor Joel Marquardt explained. Larger porches can be part of a house if they are behind the setback.
The board of zoning appeals has received several requests to have covered front porches that exceed the limit added to Roeland Park homes. The planning commission then decided to make a recommendation to relax the porch restriction in city code. “Covered front porches will encourage neighbors to spend time outside and interact with one another to enhance the community feel,” the staff memo said. Marquardt later said that front porches also add an element of casual surveillance for neighborhood safety.
The planning commission’s recommendation was to increase the size to allow for an eight-foot projection across the setback with 120 square feet of roof space in the required yard zone. In the planning commission recommendation, the porches could not be screened or glass enclosed.
Mayor Marquardt suggested making the extension even larger so a porch could run the full length of the house. Marquardt, who is an architect, said a porch could look “stuck on” to a house if it can’t go full width.
Flickinger told the council that some neighborhoods have deeded restrictions that could prevent the porches. The three or four requests to come to the BZA so far have been in neighborhoods without deed restrictions.
The council will discuss the easing of porch restrictions in more detail at the next committee of the whole meeting.