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Thread: Tips on writing ordinances?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Tips on writing ordinances?

    Where do I find out how to write ordinances? This is something I have no experience with and don't even know where to start. What are the very basic first steps?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    To the Boilermaker: Boilerplating

    I assume you are referring to zoning or subdivision ordinances. Without a specific place to start, look at other ordinances similar to your situation, jurisdiction and in your state. This will give you an idea of the framework and spark your mind where particular issues may exist in your location.

    This is by no means the answer, just a start. Of course, a major ordinance's success is based on community acceptance, so a significant public process is necessary. Finally, since the final product will be legally enforceable, careful review by your legal staff is essential.

    I'm sure you will get plenty of responses to this question . . .

  3. #3
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  4. #4
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TOFB View post
    I assume you are referring to zoning or subdivision ordinances. Without a specific place to start, look at other ordinances similar to your situation, jurisdiction and in your state. This will give you an idea of the framework and spark your mind where particular issues may exist in your location.

    This is by no means the answer, just a start. Of course, a major ordinance's success is based on community acceptance, so a significant public process is necessary. Finally, since the final product will be legally enforceable, careful review by your legal staff is essential.

    I'm sure you will get plenty of responses to this question . . .
    Pretty much what he said. The ordinances of similar jurisdicitions are great jumping off points, because you know these worked and were acceptable to people. Try to make them reader-friendly. I've borrowed from other jurisdictions but I always clean up the language because the language is often too complex in structure. Use straight-forward sentences ending with periods. Stay away from semi-colons and colons as much as possible. And remember, Public process, Public process. Public process
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Trail Nazi's avatar
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    Once you find a good ordinance to model your ordinance after, make sure when you change the name of the jurisdiction to be applicable to your jurisdiction that you actually read through to make sure you don't change something that is actually important. For example, when a county in Florida modeled their comp plan after Manatee County, they just allowed the word processing program to change every account of the word "manatee" to their county's name. (I don't want to embarrass the County in question.) Well. in doing so, the endangered manatee (not the County) was changed to the endangered County.

    Good luck in finding a model ordinance!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Make them as lengthy and obtuse as possible, to ensure job security in the future with all the interpretations.

  7. #7
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Complete your comp plan first.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...00&postcount=1

    TOFB and otterpop gave good advice.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Complete your comp plan first.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...00&postcount=1

    TOFB and otterpop gave good advice.
    I'll add to these comments with remember the law of unintended consequences. Just beause you think what you wrote should be interpreted on way doesn't mean others will interpret it the same way. People will always find holes in what you wrote or take it off on a tangent you never thought of.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I'll add to these comments with remember the law of unintended consequences. Just beause you think what you wrote should be interpreted on way doesn't mean others will interpret it the same way. People will always find holes in what you wrote or take it off on a tangent you never thought of.
    Very good point. I just wrote a fence ordinance draft, and while I I knew what I was trying to say, when it got to Planning Commission one sentence was interpreted completely different than I intended. I don't even know how that commissioner got to that point. But alas, he did, and so I had to go back and make sure and clarify.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    If you are not going to be the one responsible for administering the ordinance that you are writing, make sure you work closely with however the administering official will be.
    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"

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Another point about making and keeping the process public, is besides yourself or dept. head cultivate an elected person as a champion / supporter for it.

    I know that is general and maybe early, but it applies to many situations, just as reminder.
    Oddball
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    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    This is all good advice, so I won't repeat it. I'll add this suggestion though. Use pictures to demonstrate as much as you can. That goes a long way toward removing those semantic games that developers like to play.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  13. #13
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Coragus View post
    This is all good advice, so I won't repeat it. I'll add this suggestion though. Use pictures to demonstrate as much as you can. That goes a long way toward removing those semantic games that developers like to play.
    You can probably include a commentary section, including pictures, diagrams, clarifications, etc. that do not need to be formally adopted or altered by the elected officials.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Also pay attention to definitions - it may seem legalistic but as they say "your regulations are only as good as the definitions."

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Complete your comp plan first.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...00&postcount=1

    TOFB and otterpop gave good advice.
    Good tip! They're for different towns, though. But my workload appreciates that advice.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Oh.....yeah....

    If you can do it....write the new ordinance well before it becomes a "FIRE" and has to be rushed. This proactive approach is not always possible, depending on the size of your office and your ability hire a consultant for any major ordinances that require research and legal review. Not to mention whether or not your code is a big steaming pile of.....well that's another story for another thread.... The ordinance should be based on the Comprehensive Plan goals, objectives and policies, even in places that don't have mandatory comp planning (judges and juries like this type of link)
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

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