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Thread: Zoning for city-owned property

  1. #1
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    Zoning for city-owned property

    My community does not have a specific zoning category for government-owned property. In other places I worked, we intentionally zoned everything we owned to an "Institutional District."

    My current community is fortunate to have a large number of government-owned parks (city and county owned). For the most part, they are still zoned the same districts they were whenever the land was acquired. Some are zoned industrial, some are residential, etc.

    What are your opinions on this topic? 1) Should we have an "institutional" district for such government uses; 2) Should parks and other such things be rezoned when acquired for uniformity; 3) Any differences between parks, schools, etc. and; 4) What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each way of thinking?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    In many states in the U.S., municipal lands are exempt from zoning requirements.

    So, the point may be mute.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB
    In many states in the U.S., municipal lands are exempt from zoning requirements.

    So, the point may be mute.
    I know the point is effectively/technically moot. That is why we have the situation we have.

    But I was wondering from a "policy" standpoint whether there is a good reason. A couple of points that immediately come to mind is that it artifically skews the amount of "developable" industrial land when part of it is really taken up by parks. Additionally, it may be politically nice to have a specific color on zoning maps to show just how much parkland is in the city. Etc. Etc.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mallen
    A couple of points that immediately come to mind is that it artifically skews the amount of "developable" industrial land when part of it is really taken up by parks. Additionally, it may be politically nice to have a specific color on zoning maps to show just how much parkland is in the city. Etc. Etc.
    Both of these issues can be addressed through some nice mapping (such as via GIS), and/or with some simple math (vacant land - municipal parks = developable land), IMO.

    I don't see a compelling reason to assign a zoning designation.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    We zone our stuff P-L (Public Land), and I don't really know why. This only for city-owned property that is actually be using for a public use (ie parks, muni. buildings, etc.)

    Reasons for not creating a specific land use designation could include not wanting to deal with one more step if the muni. were to ever dispose of the property for private development - if it's still commercial than no rezonng necessary.
    Last edited by mendelman; 08 Jun 2005 at 4:55 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    My feeling is that parks should definitely be zoned as what they are - parks. As for other undeveloped land, I suppose it doesn't really matter.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
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    not moot

    This is not a moot point if you have zoning requirements such as a residential adjacency standard. This was a problem in a City I worked in where parks (and all City-owned property) were not in their own zoning class. What happened was that adjacent property owners were subject to varying buffering standards depending on which park (and its zoning) it was adjacent to.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    In our city it is important from both a setback on adjacent property standpoint and from an inventory standpoint. A benefit of zoning for parks is that the zoning map gives a clearer visual image of the situation. It also hints at how much of the city is off the tax rolls because the city, state, or federal government owns it (we have state parks and a national wildlife refuge in the city).

    In this city we have two zones for parks: Open Space, and Park. The Park zone is more intensely developable for recreational and interpretive use. Open Space is essentially undevelopable except for trails.

  9. #9
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    If you don't zone your city owned properties, what bulk, setback, parking standards, etc. do you assign the property if the city wants to develop them? I'd apply a zone district (Public Facilities) and adopt some development standards.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
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    Ooh-Ooh - I know what the city can develop!

    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    If you don't zone your city owned properties, what bulk, setback, parking standards, etc. do you assign the property if the city wants to develop them? I'd apply a zone district (Public Facilities) and adopt some development standards.
    While I stongly advocate re-zoning of all city-owned property to a separate zoning class (or two, if necessary) I wouldn't go placing too many restrictions on massing, bulk, parking standards, etc. This can only come back to bite you in the rear when you have to explain to some councilmember why their pet project is not currently allowed at the park!
    The answer to what the City can build is (at least in Texas) is anything it darn well pleases

  11. #11
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    One way to look at this would be from a Land Use point of view. What is the appropriate land use if the park was redeveloped and give the park that zoning designation. One other option would be to zone them all to a residential zoning where parks are permitted or special/conditional uses. Any nonresidential redevelopment would then require a rezoning, but at least they would be brought into a "tighter" process than the normal permitting process.

    I think the most important point I have to make is that city's should have a sound policy on decommissioning public lands. The policy should include a public process with public input. There should be solid criteria for getting rid of public parkland to prevent the "Joe developer is friends with Bob the councilman and Joe has a 'really neat' project....." I think we all know the rest of that story.

    Anyway, thought I would throw in my $.02.

  12. #12
    jimi_d's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BurgPlanner
    One way to look at this would be from a Land Use point of view. What is the appropriate land use if the park was redeveloped and give the park that zoning designation.
    That would rather militate towards paving over parks. It would probably be far better to have a not particularly restrictive zoning apart from being absolutely distinct from its surroundings - for instance, if the park is surrounded by single-family residential, the last thing that should be allowed to be built on it is more single-family residential.

  13. #13

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    I think it is both unethical and seriously counterproductive for local governments to create zones that essentially exempt themselves from the same process and rules that apply to everyone else. We are going through the full permitting process with our new Public Safety Facility. If the town builds a new shop, it needs to be in an industrial zone, etc., etc. As for parks, I would ordinarily make them a permitted use in all zoning districts.

  14. #14

    Zoning for Public Uses

    Each state is different. In PA, a municipality is only exempt from zoning if the zoning ordinance says they are exempt.

    In PA, counties must follow local zoning, for example to build a prison. In most cases, public schools must also follow zoning. Federal agencies are exempt. State agencies are only exempt if the law that created that agency says they are exempt. State-owned universities must follow zoning. A recent court case said our State DOT had to comply with zoning to build a rest area and visitors center.

    We typically say that all municipally-owned uses and public parks are permitted by right in all districts. We also say that municipally-owned uses are not required to meet setback and lot area requirements. That is particularly valuable for detention basins, sewage pump stations, water supply wells and pieces of land left over from road improvements. Some people are insistent that municipalities must follow buffering requirements, particularly for public works facilities.

    Prisons and halfway houses should be separately addressed, as well as publicly owned trash transfer stations.

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