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Thread: Why my zoning ordinance is going in the paper shredder...

  1. #1
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub

    Why my zoning ordinance is going in the paper shredder...


    I'm busy trying to put band-aids on a really crappy zoning ordinance and am now seeking the guidance of the great and powerful Throbbing Brain (TM) on a couple of issues.

    1. Now that a medium-box has moved in and moonscaped about five acres with cut/fill, we are looking for ways to prevent this style of development in the future as our terrain is part of what makes this place special. We have big boxes on the way that will put this measly five-acre development to shame when they start slicing & dicing, so we want to stop this activity before it gets worse. Anyone know of any cities or have any suggestions for how to handle this?

    2. The City has now discovered that developers won't blink an eye at tree mitigation, so they want enhanced protections for extremely large trees. Someone suggested to me that we consider establishing a requirement for specimen trees that are a certain percentage of the size of the largest tree of that species. We also have a problem in that developers are opting to cut all of the trees and mitigate. Is it possible to require more inches mitigated than actually existed prior on the site? Also, if anyone knows of some great tree ordinances, please let me know. Also, has anyone excluded a particular species of hardwood tree?

    3. Our zoning ordinance contains no reference to mitigating increased impervious cover (actually, it has no performance criteria whatsoever). I would like a little advice as to whether I should go with a seperate drainage ordinance or try to incorporate it into the zoning ordinance.

    Note: In the ideal, perfect world I would slap a moratorium on construction & platting for about a year and redo every ordinance on the books. Unfortunately, the budget doesn't have the money for a consultant and I don't have the time on top of day-to-day operations.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    I wonder if it would be possible to regulate the earthwork by allowing only a percentage change to the pre-existing grade.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Sep 2001
    skating on thin ice
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I wonder if it would be possible to regulate the earthwork by allowing only a percentage change to the pre-existing grade.
    You could do that through development permits and changing the definiton of development to include the cutting or filling of a site to a certain depth. This could include that no tree be removed until such time as a site plan has been approved for construction. This is from my last jurisdictions enabling legislation. Any work undertaken without a permit can be fined, for each and everyday that work is done without the permit, not that it was everdone.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  4. #4
    Look at introducing a form-based overlay zoning, or codes?

  5. #5

    May 1997
    Williston, VT
    That's a lot of questions.

    Re trees, get with the Tree City USA program through the National Arbor Day Foundation. They have useful info on things like tree ordinances and how to protect trees during construction. Also, there is a good PAS report written by Chris Duerksen on tree protection. It addresses specimen trees and special protection/exclusion for particular species.

    I think your questions 1 and 3 end up going together because how you grade a site is going to determine its cover, and how runoff flows off. I prefer combining the excacation, grading, drainage, runoff, and erosion control standards into zoning, but there are communities that have a separate ordinance that seems to work out fine. You should also check out your local building code. It may have a chapter on grading that you could adopt (it is usually an optional chapter and many places do not adopt it). The building code requirements I am familiar with are not sufficient, but would be a reasonable starting point and supplement to a more effective approach.

    Your state water quality agency may be able to help here. Many states have a manual or handbook of best practices that you could adopt as a local guide. I also recommend the Center for Watershed Protection's website.

  6. #6
    May 2004

    ideas for 2 out of 3

    1. Develop a land clearing permit to control the amount of dirt that is removed from the site. Limit the amount of earth than can be moved based on what is necessary to make the project work (not what is the best or preferable for the big box). This will require the cooperation of the engineering department to set standards (drainage calcs., runoff, retention, and so on can be calculated as part of this application). This type of application can be used for any project greater than 1acre in size for reasons of drainage and sedimentation control.

    2. I actually worked to develop just the type of tree ordinance that you are interested in --- it is located in Nassau County FL -- go to nassauclerk.com and then go to the growth management department, and then latest planning news and a copy of the ordinance will be available.

    This ordinace is specific for certian species of trees based on the size of the trees. They can be mitigated on site, or they can be mitigated onto public property, such as parks and schools. Unfourtunately we were only able to get a match inch for inch on mitigation, but it has been a sucess.

    You can follow this up by creating a tree protection ordinance for trees located within the county/city right-of-way -- this will provide a canopy for the roadways -- this ordiance can also be found on the website mentioned above.

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