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Thread: Bufferyard requirements: balance between simplicity and flexibility

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Bufferyard requirements: balance between simplicity and flexibility

    Yes, another dumb question from someone who thought he knew better.

    I'm wrapping up edits on the development code, and one thing that seems to be causing me a great deal of gnashing of teeth are bufferyard requirements between various uses. I've seen two types:

    1) Inflexible and almost too simple, using just minimum buffer widths or setbacks.

    2) Unbelievably complicated, straight off the pages of the classic Performance Zoning by Lane Kendig, using tens of defined uses; points based on number of trees and their caliper; special provisions for berms, walls, and so on; along with various exceptions, bonuses, waiver provisions, and so on.

    I'm trying to keep the code simple, so I don't want to have a 10+ page section on bufferyards like I've seen in some places. Then again, I don't want to just leave it as "just put up a wall"; there should be some flexibility. Right now, my awkward middle ground looks like this:



    Consider that this is a hybrid traditional/form-based code for "kinder, gentler suburban context development"; the SmartCode will govern more urban-scale, mixed-use development.

    Your thoughts or ideas?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    I think your simpler scheme has merit. I assume that you will require different bufferyards based on the # of points? I work with a town that has adopted a somewhat modified form of Kindig's Performance Zoning. The bufferyards laid out by him with different widths/amount of planting work well for us. I have had projects go for both extremes - narrow as possible w/ thick planting and the widest to include existing vegetation.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Yes, another dumb question from someone who thought he knew better.

    I'm wrapping up edits on the development code, and one thing that seems to be causing me a great deal of gnashing of teeth are bufferyard requirements between various uses. I've seen two types:

    1) Inflexible and almost too simple, using just minimum buffer widths or setbacks.

    2) Unbelievably complicated, straight off the pages of the classic Performance Zoning by Lane Kendig, using tens of defined uses; points based on number of trees and their caliper; special provisions for berms, walls, and so on; along with various exceptions, bonuses, waiver provisions, and so on.

    I'm trying to keep the code simple, so I don't want to have a 10+ page section on bufferyards like I've seen in some places. Then again, I don't want to just leave it as "just put up a wall"; there should be some flexibility. Right now, my awkward middle ground looks like this:



    Consider that this is a hybrid traditional/form-based code for "kinder, gentler suburban context development"; the SmartCode will govern more urban-scale, mixed-use development.

    Your thoughts or ideas?
    There are several methods to calculating plant material in addition to the plant unit method.

    Option #2:
    "x" number of shade trees, "y" number of ornamental trees, and "z" number of shrubs per 100 linear feet. X,Y, Z can also be decimals to give more flexibility. Another option is to

    Option #3:
    Percentage Screening: a bufferyard within a front yard might have plant material providing 75% screening along an arterial, a bufferyard within a side yard adjacent to an incompatible use might have 50-60% screening.

    In your example, how many points are assigned to each plant material? I assume the points are for every 100 linear feet, excluding driveways? Personally, I would have a higher number of plant units between two industrial uses. Do you have an evergreen shurb requirement? What is the maximum slope of the berm: 3:1?

    Do the masonry wall and berm require landscaping, even if it's a reduced number? It reads like 100 points will be counted towards each bufferyard, which in some cases might be a complete substitution. I have written a few landscape ordinances and usually reduce the number of plant material when the yard width is increased, a decorative fence/masonry wall is installed, or a berm is added.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  4. #4
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    I like the direction you are going in, IME you want simplicity, and IMHO nrschmid's #2 is best, along with the statement and usually reduce the number of plant material when the yard width is increased, a decorative fence/masonry wall is installed, or a berm is added (and you'll want to change your points, as you want more ground cover on berms to prevent erosion in your downpours, and the berm provides the height change for aesthetics that you get from your shrub points, so taller shrubs aren't as needed anyway - esp as a screen).

    Why do I like #2? [ecologist's hat] You get multiple woody canopy layers which is good for critters/resilience and appears more natural for people, which fosters a stronger sense of place and provides more nearby nature. [/ecologist's hat}

    I have a concern about your berm height, in that if it is turfed, you'll want a 2:1 slope so it doesn't end up looking cr*ppy in time (I'm sure the LAs will chime in here, but $6.00/hr lawn mowers don't care that it rained an hour ago, by gum they are cutting the grass!), and that takes away real estate that developers can't use. If you mandate berm, you'll - again - need to shrub it up so it looks nice and doesn't erode, and ensure that your berm code is tight enough to address turf-slope-shrubs. Also make sure your plant list is tight, as IME I don't care for at least half of the designs I review, esp the plant material (my hort. approach vs LA approach) - if you are giving them flexibility, make it flexibility within well-defined boundaries. IMHO.

    Again, overall good direction.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    To clarify a bit, Chapter 4 in the draft code is the "Site design standards" section; basically, what development looks like on the ground. Required landscaping areas are in the "Bulk, setback and buffers", "Site design" and "Parking and access" sections, while required materials are in the landscaping section. This is the proposed schedule for multi-family and non-residential uses:



    Now, to soak up all those comments, and do some fine-tuning.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    My only comment is more related to the administrative simplicity of "form-based" regulation vs. "use-based" regulation. If you create setback regulations that are calculated based on what type of tenant (use) is in a building, as tenants come and go you run into the unfortunate situation at times where a new tenant wants to get a business license, but planning can't sign off on it because the building they want to move into doesn't have a big enough buffer yard for the new "use".

    I worked for one city that had use-based setbacks, and we ran into that problem all the time, particularly in multi-tenant buildings where say for example a bar needed a 20-foot bufferyard, but an insurance office only required a 10-foot bufferyard, and then we couldn't let a bar&grill restaurant move in because the building didn't have the 20-foot bufferyard. (The city finally ended up amending the code to eliminate the whole "use" issue).

    Just my 2 cents.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I once tried to see if adequate "buffers" would be provided if we simply required space between Uses that would still allow any of the unused intervening Districts to be inserted between any two Uses in question.

    ie, Say Industrial I-1 was proposed next to Residential R-2.

    Then the "buffer" or intervening space would have to be enough to allow one R-3, one R-4, one C-1, one C-2, and one C-3 lot of minimum width to theoretically intervene. Those are the intervening Districts in our code.

    Assuming the following:
    R-3 minimum Lot Width 60 ft
    R-4 minimum Lot Width 50 ft
    C-1 minimum Lot Width 100 ft
    C-2 minimum Lot Width 150 ft
    C-3 minimum Lot Width 200 ft

    In this hypothetical example, the distance between the R-2 and the I-2 would be 560 feet.

    Using the same chart, the "buffer" between R-4 and C-2 would be 100 feet.

    The "buffer" between R-4 and C-1 would be zero feet. These two are considered "compatable" in being adjacent to each other.

    There was no requirement for street ROW's in this "buffer" rule, but you might want to include one if the required "buffer" exceeds "X" feet, or one between R and C or between C and I. This might help preserve "interconnectivity."

    Theoretically "in-fill" could occur (so as not to waste space) by allowing one unit of each intervening District to fill any vacant space.

    For example, in this case if 560 feet were left open as the "buffer," a C-1 with 100 ft width could be allowed between the R-2 and the I-1 in question. The C-1 would have to have a 110 ft "buffer" between it and the R-2, and a 350 ft "buffer" between it and the R-1.

    Each District has its own landscaping requirements, and would not have to be figured or implemented in the intervening "buffer" space.

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