The Des Moines City Council on Wednesday passed the final reading of an ordinance establishing a new city zoning code but not before it was chastised by one of its members.

“We’ve worked on this for three years, and it takes us until [the day] of the third passage to come together,” Councilwoman Linda Westergaard said. “There’s all these things that have not been decided yet. Now we’re going into January and February. 

“We should have had this done last summer.”

City staff, elected officials and community members have worked for more than five years on rewriting the current code, which was put in place in the 1960s and has been updated more than 300 times.

About two years ago, a first draft of the rewritten code was released and received hundreds of complaints and suggestions for changes. Staff and others reviewed the comments, reworked the zoning code and rereleased it in the spring with numerous changes and additions, including establishing minimum standards for new houses built in Des Moines.

The new code also includes rules for short-term rentals, something the city currently doesn’t have in place.

The new code, which goes into effect Dec. 16, caps the number of days an owner can rent his or her property at 120, unless the owner lives on-site. Feedback from current operators of short-term rentals said the new rules were too restrictive and would put them out of business.

The council has said it would revisit the issue. City staff, which held a public meeting on the issue on Oct. 7, is drafting proposed changes to the code that are expected to be presented to the council by March.

When the revised zoning code was rereleased, there was an outcry among homebuilders and affordable housing advocates who said the minimum house size requirements were too restrictive.

The new zoning code requires newly built houses to be between 1,100 and 1,800 square feet, depending on location and number of stories. The new code also requires a single-car garage or a shed. City staff will have the authority to waive the garage requirement and approve house sizes that are up to 18% smaller than the minimum requirement.

The Plan and Zoning Commission, when it sent the new code to the council, refused to recommend minimum sizes for new houses.

The council plans to continue to address the concerns of homebuilders and others through amendments that will be discussed in 2020. State law does not allow major changes to new zoning codes after the first public hearing.

The council on Wednesday approved the new code on a 6-1 vote. Westergaard was the lone dissenter.