There is no question that Winters is growing and along with growing are occasional “growing pains.”
With hundreds of new homes built over the past six years and hundreds more on the way, concerns are being expressed of increased truck traffic, construction noise, dust, debris, city staffing shortages and an occasional planning oversight.
One new issue first came before the Winters City Council at the April 19 meeting by Mark Chambers, owner of Chambers Pools.
Chambers explained he was hired by homeowner Sue Davis to build an in-ground swimming pool in her brand-new home’s backyard in the Heartland development. When he checked with the city to see if he could start digging the hole prior to applying for a permit, he was told there was inadequate permeable space and that, according to the city code, a pool would not be permitted.
Davis told the Express when buying her home and dealing with the sales office, she expressed her desire upfront for a pool and was provided with referrals to pool builders by the sales representative.
However, as Davis and others are learning, the City of Winters has had a section in its municipal code that, until recently hasn’t enforced limiting a lot’s impervious site coverage to 50 percent for single story homes.
Smaller lot sizes allow developers to build more homes in their developments and Winters is seeing bigger homes being built on smaller lots.
Chambers questioned how the Planning Commission and City Council could have approved housing developments with lot sizes that do not allow, as per the city code, for added hardscapes like pools, patios and pergolas. He also offered some solutions, like installing permeable pavers in place of cement driveways and walkways to increase the pervious surface area. “Let’s be accountable and do the right thing together,” Chambers reasoned.
Taking the footprint of Davis’ single-story house, the city calculated her lot already had 52 percent site coverage before even considering a pool or other hardscapes, like a pergola, walkways, patios or anything not allowing water to return to the ground.
Davis was further frustrated when she learned that her neighbor at the opposite end of her street that she said had same model house and lot size was issued a permit and built a pool in 2019.
Mayor Wade Cowan, a general contractor himself, acknowledged the problem and council agreed to bring the issue back as a future agenda item.
“We need to make sure the developers, whether we change this or not, the developers need to be disclosing in their disclosures what percentage of their lot is already covered by their brand-new house.” Cowan said. “They should be made aware of that, and currently, they’re not.”
Meritage Homes is actively preparing infrastructure in the northwest subdivision to build two hundred new homes, some with lot coverage plans that would restrict pools and hardscaping being installed due to the site coverage ordinance.
Meritage Homes Vice President Jeremy Goulart volunteered to council that they would reference the city ordinance in the CC&Rs so new home and subsequent buyers receive and accept them during the buying process.
In a series of email communications shared by Davis between Chambers, City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa and Senior Planner Kirk Skierski, Davis learned that the municipal code section regulating site coverage was not being enforced until the city hired Skierski last October as the city’s full-time senior planner.
Trepa wrote to Davis in April explaining the amount of impervious surface is regulated because, “Too much concrete and asphalt create a heat island effect — actually warming the air from radiant heat, which in turn increases the need for air conditioning, etc.”
“Had I known I would not be able to have a pool in my backyard and am restricted as to how I can finish my landscaping, I would not have chosen this home. It doesn’t seem fair,” Davis said.