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Thread: PDD vs. mixed use zone districts

  1. #1
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    PDD vs. mixed use zone districts

    The topic of PUDs as a zoning district was discussed by another user a few months back but I want to bring the topic back up to the surface since my community does have PDD as a district on our zoning map and we are thinking about expanding its use. (Right now about 20% of our land area is zoned PDD). We are a completely built out inner ring suburb of about 12,000 that was built on a typical 1960’s suburban plan. Our PDD offers a great deal of flexibility in that there are no bulk standards, setbacks etc and each use would receive a site specific agreement that runs with the land.

    It seems that the overriding sentiment in the previous thread and elsewhere is that PUDs/PDD should be limited in their use and that more specific mixed use zoning districts should be codified instead. What are people’s thoughts about this?

    In my opinion our PDDs work great and make sense. I would like to offer our experience as a counterpoint to what I view as the common arguments about the disadvantages with having a PDD on a zone map or using them in general:

    1) Argument: "Slow process for developers who have to wrangle with Staff".
    Yes a PUD/PDD process is a little slower, than other land use approvals but it has never halted any project and problems are avoided if you are clear on the length of time up front. The wrangling generally leads to positive compromises anyway.

    2) Argument: "A PDD zoning district is not as easy for developers and officials to understand as say, standard Euclidean zoning. This lack of clarity could lead to proposals that aren’t really what the community intends for a given neighborhood".
    My experience is that a PDD is harder to explain but when used in conjunction with a guiding area plan it is easy to offer pictures and ideas for the general direction of the neighborhood to new politicos or developers. Further, it seems pretty easy for a developer to “follow the market” and sense trends in a neighborhood in terms of use and architecture and style.

    3) Argument: "The zoning code is inherently flawed if too many PDD/PUDS need to be used".
    OK yeah so our zoning code is flawed (isn’t everyone’s?) but we need something in the meantime to handle new proposals with flexibility and progressive site design principals. Our code rewrite is slowly coming along with a comp plan, but the end is still 2 years out maybe.

    Argument #3 really gets at my big question…with the PDD working so well for our community does it even make sense to bother with trying to write a new mixed use zoning district, or do we need to avoid “overusing” the PDD?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mique28
    The topic of PUDs as a zoning district was discussed by another user a few months back but I want to bring the topic back up to the surface since my community does have PDD as a district on our zoning map and we are thinking about expanding its use. (Right now about 20% of our land area is zoned PDD). We are a completely built out inner ring suburb of about 12,000 that was built on a typical 1960’s suburban plan. Our PDD offers a great deal of flexibility in that there are no bulk standards, setbacks etc and each use would receive a site specific agreement that runs with the land.

    It seems that the overriding sentiment in the previous thread and elsewhere is that PUDs/PDD should be limited in their use and that more specific mixed use zoning districts should be codified instead. What are people’s thoughts about this?

    In my opinion our PDDs work great and make sense. I would like to offer our experience as a counterpoint to what I view as the common arguments about the disadvantages with having a PDD on a zone map or using them in general:

    1) Argument: "Slow process for developers who have to wrangle with Staff".
    Yes a PUD/PDD process is a little slower, than other land use approvals but it has never halted any project and problems are avoided if you are clear on the length of time up front. The wrangling generally leads to positive compromises anyway.

    2) Argument: "A PDD zoning district is not as easy for developers and officials to understand as say, standard Euclidean zoning. This lack of clarity could lead to proposals that aren’t really what the community intends for a given neighborhood".
    My experience is that a PDD is harder to explain but when used in conjunction with a guiding area plan it is easy to offer pictures and ideas for the general direction of the neighborhood to new politicos or developers. Further, it seems pretty easy for a developer to “follow the market” and sense trends in a neighborhood in terms of use and architecture and style.

    3) Argument: "The zoning code is inherently flawed if too many PDD/PUDS need to be used".
    OK yeah so our zoning code is flawed (isn’t everyone’s?) but we need something in the meantime to handle new proposals with flexibility and progressive site design principals. Our code rewrite is slowly coming along with a comp plan, but the end is still 2 years out maybe.

    Argument #3 really gets at my big question…with the PDD working so well for our community does it even make sense to bother with trying to write a new mixed use zoning district, or do we need to avoid “overusing” the PDD?

    Isnt the PUD/PDD just another zoning district that is going to vary from place to place in what it means? I know the concept behind it and most places I have seen use it as an overlay zone or sort of like a different way to allow things that may not technically meet the underlying zoning.

    If the PDD is the base zone than how is that different than another other base zone?

    Seems you could create a mixed use zone that would still require site specific agreements if you wanted to.

    Ultimately in most instances I don't think that anything that makes development more difficult or time consuming is going to be good for the health of your community.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner

    If the PDD is the base zone than how is that different than another other base zone?

    Seems you could create a mixed use zone that would still require site specific agreements if you wanted to.

    Ultimately in most instances I don't think that anything that makes development more difficult or time consuming is going to be good for the health of your community.

    The PDD is the base zone and it is different than all other zones that we have because it has no set building requirements, unlike say our R1-residential district which has 30 ft front yard setback etc. etc.

    It is true that we could create a mixed use zone that required site specific development agreements... interesting.

    In response to your last point, I am of the opinion that our PDD doesn't make things harder but rather easier on the developer because of the flexibility. I think trying to cram every little aspect of design into a mixed use district might make things harder. Is my thinking off base?

  4. #4

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    If the PDD is working for you now, you should probably just relax. There are many places where it doesn't work well, for a variety of reasons.

    My view is that the type of development you really want ought to be the use by right, so I avoid using PUD-type requirements to add flexibility and just write it into the zoning districts.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    My view is that the type of development you really want ought to be the use by right, so I avoid using PUD-type requirements to add flexibility and just write it into the zoning districts.
    That's my view also but in this Town we often have to take baby-steps toward that goal. With things like mixed use developments and open space designs we can only get them approved by special permit. The public here would think we are anarchists if we wrote PUD-type standards into the code by right. The goal is to eventually make these things the default pattern if they prove to be successful.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian mique28's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    The goal is to eventually make these things the default pattern if they prove to be successful.

    Makes sense. Point taken. Thank you.
    Lee, your point about relaxing is true too...needless to say I am glad its Friday

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