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Thread: Should zoning reflect built environment

  1. #1
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    Should zoning reflect built environment

    Are there any reference materials out there that make the argument, for or against zoning reflecting the built environment of a pre-existing district? I've been told that it's generally agreed that zoning shoul reflect the character of a district, but I'd like to have something more concrete that I could refer people to so it doesn't appear like it's just a matter of opinion. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Should zoning reflect an established distinct area, of course. But be careful of over zoning an area beyond what its current character is.
    @GigCityPlanner

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    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    Well, since Tide provided the provided the "pro" argument, I'll provide the "con".

    The zoning map and ordinance should have properties developing in a way that is consistent with the comprehensive plan. So, if the Comp Plan indicated that the current built environment is not what the district should be in the future, the zoning might reflect future built conditions rather than current or past ones. Any non-conforming conditions can be dealt with by the code, amortization, or other allowances. But, if the Comp Plan says the built environment is fine as is, then yes, the zoning and the built environment will match.

    The zoning should be more about what it should be, than what it is. They might be the same thing, or they might not.
    JOE ILIFF
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    thanks, but...

    Thanks, both of you, but my problem still remains. While both of your replies sound valid, they are still a he said/she said argument. What I'm really looking for is published reference materials that discuss this issue. Something I can present to someone and say "see - this isn't just me talking, it's accepted best zoning practices..."

    The situation in question is a neighborhood where over 95% of the lots are non-conforming. From an architect's point of view, that seems to point to the idea that there's a problem with the zoning for that neighborhood. What I don't have is background material to back up the point of view, or repudiate that point of view.

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DomArch View post
    Thanks, both of you, but my problem still remains. While both of your replies sound valid, they are still a he said/she said argument. What I'm really looking for is published reference materials that discuss this issue. Something I can present to someone and say "see - this isn't just me talking, it's accepted best zoning practices..."

    The situation in question is a neighborhood where over 95% of the lots are non-conforming. From an architect's point of view, that seems to point to the idea that there's a problem with the zoning for that neighborhood. What I don't have is background material to back up the point of view, or repudiate that point of view.
    Sounds like the list of permitted/special uses for each zoning district just needs to be updated. I am currently doing this for a client. Unfortunately the zoning ordinance has not been adopted yet, so I can't give that info out.

    Have you checked with back issues of Planning magazine, JAPA, PAS, or ULI publications?

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    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    I think I understand what you are saying more clearly now. I don't have any good published sources I can direct you to off the top of my head.

    However, I might take this tactic. Ask the planners (or powers-that-be) to justify why the zoning ordinance should make such-and-such a non-conforming condition. If the ordinance is creating some non-conforming condition, there should be a reason, some goal it is meant to accomplish. Otherwise, you can argue that the ordinance is overly burdensome, demanding something from these properties that doesn't produce any meaningful benefit to the general public health, safety, welfare, etc..
    JOE ILIFF
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    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I'm not sure I completely understand your question, but I am guessing you are talking about the use of something commonly called "overlay zones?"

    From the first link below:
    For example, an overlay zone can be instituted for a specific neighborhood to preserve its character and design by encouraging new construction, and additions to existing buildings, that are compatible with the neighborhood's building types and character. An overlay zone can also be designated in areas to promote mixed-use development, such as near community centers.
    Does that sound like the kind of thing you mean? If so, the following links have brief info on the rationale for these kinds of approaches and may link you to additional resources. Sorry, I don't have anything that speaks to the cons, though it is likely to come up in an historic overlay zone, I would think, where some residents may oppose restrictions that would make it too expensive to do improvements on their properties because of compliance with historic preservation regulations. That might be an area to pursue for cons.

    http://www.plannersweb.com/wfiles/w318.html
    http://www.mkedcd.org/planning/plans/NC/index.html
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    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    Lane Kindig in Performance Zoning provided for "Neighborhood Conservation Districts". See thye Havana, Florida Performance Zoning Ordinance on the Town Website.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally posted by Joe Iliff View post
    I
    However, I might take this tactic. Ask the planners (or powers-that-be) to justify why the zoning ordinance should make such-and-such a non-conforming condition. If the ordinance is creating some non-conforming condition, there should be a reason, some goal it is meant to accomplish. Otherwise, you can argue that the ordinance is overly burdensome, demanding something from these properties that doesn't produce any meaningful benefit to the general public health, safety, welfare, etc..
    Joe:

    This is interesting. Our planning board and zba are staffed by volunteer citizens. I'm not sure they have the background to justify why the current zoning condition is the way it is, but I like the idea. The current ordinance certainly does not appear to produce any meaningful benefits. My own belief is that when the zoning was written in the 50's, they weren't as concerned about the situation in the village but were focusing on the larger properties outside the village center. There are some people however who have argued that whomever was writing the code at that time purposefully downzoned the area to prevent development of some double lots. If that was the case, it certainly has not stopped people from getting variances to add on to their houses and fill in their porches and generally create a slow erosion of the quaint early 1900's feel of the neighborhoods.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. I didn't quite get what I was looking for, but it was still helpful. If anybody has any further thoughts, I'd love to hear them. It seems like such a simple concept: zoning requirements should reflect the built neighborhood and vice versa...but why?

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