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Thread: Reason(s) for the continued existence and validity of zoning (was: Zoning -why?)

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    Reason(s) for the continued existence and validity of zoning (was: Zoning -why?)

    Hey!

    I'm a first year postgraduate planning student, who has been long time looking in, and now in looking out of the planning profession. One thing I keep on finding confusing in particular about zoning is the amount it gets challenged, yet equally lacking are proposals to drop zoning. What gives? I would be interested to know of any studies or personal experiences that speak to why zoning continues to be important, in particular due to its constant criticism?

    Stuart
    Last edited by mendelman; 17 Mar 2008 at 4:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stuartdenoon View post
    Hey!

    I'm a first year postgraduate planning student, who has been long time looking in, and now in looking out of the planning profession. One thing I keep on finding confusing in particular about zoning is the amount it gets challenged, yet equally lacking are proposals to drop zoning. What gives? I would be interested to know of any studies or personal experiences that speak to why zoning continues to be important, in particular due to its constant criticism?

    Stuart

    I think the main reason is that on a community-wide level the protection it gives property owners is seen as outweighing the limits on economic development and creative alternatives. For every academic that challenges zoning there are thousands of homeowners who would not want to see it disappear.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stuartdenoon View post
    Hey!

    I'm a first year postgraduate planning student, who has been long time looking in, and now in looking out of the planning profession. One thing I keep on finding confusing in particular about zoning is the amount it gets challenged, yet equally lacking are proposals to drop zoning. What gives? I would be interested to know of any studies or personal experiences that speak to why zoning continues to be important, in particular due to its constant criticism?

    Stuart
    I don't think zoning gets challenged as often as its critics like to think. The vast majority of jurisdictions in the U.S. have adopted zoning, and one would think that if it were so bad then we'd see towns and cities abolishing it.

    For all its ills, zoning at least establishes a framework in which public concerns can be expressed in the area of land use planning. This is the most important function of zoning IMO.

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stuartdenoon View post
    I'm a first year postgraduate planning student, who has been long time looking in, and now in looking out of the planning profession. One thing I keep on finding confusing in particular about zoning is the amount it gets challenged, yet equally lacking are proposals to drop zoning. What gives? I would be interested to know of any studies or personal experiences that speak to why zoning continues to be important, in particular due to its constant criticism?
    Welcome to Cyburbia!

    I wonder if zoning is frowned upon in South Africa because it was one of the tools used to maintain the social order in the apartheid era?

    There are alternatives to traditional zoning that are starting to gain a foothold in the United States. The most buzz is centered around SmartCode and form-based zoning, which consider the form, appearance and scale of a use more so than the use itself. In the 1970s, performance zoning, which considered the impact of a use rather than the type of use, was tried in many communities. Performance zoning is difficult to implement, but where it was used, it was successful for the most part. Fort Collins, Colorado is usually considered a model of successful performance zoning implementation, although it was replaced some years back by a more conventional zoning code with form-based influences.

    Why is zoning still prevalent? Because it's easier to implement than alternative land use regulation schemes, and few really want the chaos that results from unzoned communities; see Houston, Texas. Also, in the planning model practiced in the US, zoning is usually the major tool used to implement goals, objectives and policies related to land use and other traits of the built environment in a community's comprehensive plan. Zoning is prevalent in the US because, if ideally practiced, land use decision-making isn't arbitrary. The UK land use system, while quite effective, would be extremely difficult to implement in the US because it involves a level of arbitrary decision-making that is frowned upon by US law.

    With high crime rates in South African cities, and gated communities now the norm, I always wondered how practical contemporary American principles of urban planning that downplay zoning -- New Urbanism, transit-oriented development, and so on -- would be in such an environment.

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    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    Dan stole my thunder. It's not so much zoning, but the type of zoning. Performance zoning works well in some communities that don't insist that the commission/council approve every rezoning. In performance zoning, if the project fits the rules, it is approved. If not the plan has to be amended or the project can not be permitted.

    It's not really difficult to administer. Just every project is a site plan review w/o hearings. Havana, Fl has had performance zoning for 20+ years now. It has been very successful.

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    Thanks!

    Thanks! that really helps a lot and gives me a good start as to looking into zoning. It also halped clear up the links between the various ideas, and that murky but definite differnce between US and UK planning-know if only my country would produce some decent studies on its zoning scheme...

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stuartdenoon View post
    Thanks! that really helps a lot and gives me a good start as to looking into zoning. It also halped clear up the links between the various ideas, and that murky but definite differnce between US and UK planning-know if only my country would produce some decent studies on its zoning scheme...
    In the past, I tried looking around online for South African land use regulations, but came up empty-handed. I found plenty of references to zoning, but no codes/bylaws/ordinances.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    zoning in South Africa

    It is difficult for me to imagine any kind of physical or spatial planning without zoning, even if by another name. Planning is about deciding where different types of activities can take place relative to one another, and the expectation is that this is done most efficiently and effectively by puting some thought into it. This is turn usually means grouping similar types of compatible land uses. It requires "carving up" the land into sections and deciding what may or may not be done in each section. Call it whatever you will, but it is zoning.

    I tried to imagine the alternative: that we say something like "a gas station should be no nearer than 200 meters from a residential house;" "a noisey factory, using or producing dangerours chemicals, producing foul smelling gases, and generating more than 200 vehicle trips per day should not be located less than 500 meters from a residential building." If we had these types of rules and nothing more, we probably would not get very effective or efficient use of our land.

    For those of you looking for information on things related to planning and zoning in South Africa check out the following website:

    www. info.gov.za/whitepapers/2001/spatialplanning.htm (I've introduced a blank space after the first period to inactivate the live link.)

    An important piece of legislation is the Development Facilitation Act which you can find at www. info.gov.za/acts/1995/a67-95.pdf

    You will find Government's urban development policy in the form of a paper on the Urban Development Framework at www. info.gov.za/otherdocs/1997/sa_urb.pdf. Its a bit dated, and you might find more recent documents but this is a start.

    South Africa has a very sophisticated system that integrates physical with economic planning. It requires very extensive public participation, as well as impact assessments. Zoning is still part of it.

    The country also has a very decentralised system of government, so a lot of the responsibility and authority for planning and development lies at the local level. Of course, one of the things the current government must contend with is that immediately subsequent to majority rule and the reconsolidation of the entire country under one administration, it was impossible to replace all planning related legislation at once and in one fell swoop. There were at the time at least 13 different planning laws applying in different parts of the country. In adopting the Development Facilitation Act, Government also wanted to move from entirely restrictive approaches to land management to much more promotional and pro-active ones.

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    One more reference I can across in my recent search on zoning post submitting on this topic:
    web.capetown.gov.za/eDocuments/CoCT_Zoning_scheme_4th_Draft_-_Nov_07__522008115322_.pdf
    It be the new Cape Town integrated zoning scheme.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by stuartdenoon View post
    Hey!

    I'm a first year postgraduate planning student, who has been long time looking in, and now in looking out of the planning profession. One thing I keep on finding confusing in particular about zoning is the amount it gets challenged, yet equally lacking are proposals to drop zoning. What gives? I would be interested to know of any studies or personal experiences that speak to why zoning continues to be important, in particular due to its constant criticism?

    Stuart
    If you consider the number of lawsuits that are filed against doctors and hospitals, you might wonder why people want to be doctors and why patients don't simply rely on home remedies. The same question could be posed regarding automobile injuries (why would people continue to buy cars?), and given daily reports of workplace discrimination why would anyone choose to work? Zoning is probably no more litigious than these other fields. Zoning remains viable, in my opinion, because the courts have struck a somewhat middle ground - no one side loses or wins all the time.

  11. #11

    Against Planners

    One of Colorado's top political bloggers has weighed in on the subject - -
    planners and their zoning laws get the blame for a lot of bad consequences, unintended or otherwise.

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