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Thread: "Official" zoning maps

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Bloomington, Minnesota
    Posts
    45

    "Official" zoning maps

    I'm writing ordinance language that modifies our (Bloomington, MN) zoning ordinance to eliminate the long boundary descriptions that have been our heritage since the 1950's. We have so many of them they eat up 50 pages of the City Code. You could think of it as a 1000 piece puzzle, with a legal description of each piece. Most of the time these descriptions are metes and bounds ("Commencing at a point on the north line of the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 27, Township 115, Range 21, which is 521.32 feet east of the northwest corner of said southeast quarter; thence south 89 degrees 4 minutes 58 seconds west a distance of ..."). In other instances, it's a simple area description ("Lots 4 and 5, Block 1, Jones 1st Addition"). There is language in the Code that states that it is assumed that zoning district boundaries follow centerlines of streets, which is a good concept. If you can determine what a "centerline" really is. But that's another discussion.

    The problems with this system are: (1) complex metes and bounds descriptions are difficult to find, much less follow, since they're usually based on surveyor's legal descriptions; (2) rezonings usually precede a development application, which more often than not results in replatting, meaning that lot and block descriptions disappear from current maps (even though they are technically still of record, but impossible to find without researching underlying plats); (3) over the 50 years we've been doing this there have been (unimaginable as it may seem) errors in descriptions, resulting in "busts" (holes) in descriptions, or overlapping descriptions and (4) it is a technical nightmare to write a rezoning ordinance, since you not only have to write a new description for the new district, you have to rewrite the description of every adjoining district whose boundaries are also changed.

    My thought is to have the Council adopt an "Official Zoning Map" by ordinance (zoning districts must be adopted by ordinance per Minnesota Statute). The ordinance would, in fact, describe each district as is currently done, but it wouldn't be part of the City Code. In reality, the Council (the public, the planners, and everyone else) pays more attention to the map than the language anyway, and the graphic representation is much more meaningful.

    Amendments to the map must also be by ordinance, therefore a boundary description would accompany a map showing the area to be rezoned. From time to time, the Council would adopt a new map, i.e., a new set of updated descriptions. Rather than having to rewrite every district description in which the subject property is described, a rezoning ordinance would simply say, "This is a description of the property being rezoned, here's a map of it, and this is what it's zoned now." The cleanup of other districts would be, more or less, a staff function which the Council could deal with as time permits. The fact that there is a new description each time a property is rezoned provides a paper trail of the Council's actions.

    I should mention that at this time we're implementing an enterprise-wide GIS, which will allow linking of descriptions to parcels and zoning districts. As we're redescribing each district, we're also mapping them electronically, which will be easier to plot and display accurately, as well as to make them available graphically on our web site. Each parcel can be linked to a specific ordinance which describes the district establishing its zoning classification.

    So, has anybody done anything like this? I'd like to see ordinance language that describes the process.

    Thanks in Advance,

    Bob Hawbaker,
    Senior Planner
    Bloomington, MN
    bhawbaker@ci.bloomington.mn.us

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,963
    There has to be a way around your dilemma. There may be quirks in your state laws, so check out what other MN cities do. The four states I worked in allow zoning maps to be adopted by reference as part of the overall ordinance. The boundaries identified on the map suffice. Map amendments describe the plat block and lot numbers, or metes and bounds on unplatted land. Map amendments are ordinances, but are not put in the city code-- except possibly in summary form. The ordinance should include language when there are boundary questions. There is too much real work to do to have your problems. What would you do if you found a section corner was incorrectly identified 20 years ago?

  3. #3
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 1996
    Location
    New Hampshire
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    7,609
    I know that here in NH we are able to adopt the map by reference, and mapping changes are considered part of the ordinance, even though the text of the ordinance doesn't change (similar to MN, zoning in NH is part of the municipal code and adoption/amendment must be made through the legislative body).

    Good luck Bob, hope everything is going well out in Bloomington!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Bloomington, Minnesota
    Posts
    45
    Mike,
    I don't think it's a dilemma, just a lot of work I was hoping to avoid if somebody else had some good language. I've got an assistant planner on staff who, strangely enough, enjoys cleaning up language discrepancies. It's all part of the GIS mapping initiative. Bad section corner or boundary question? Our code says that the Planning Commission makes the determination, ratified by the Council. I don't think it has ever come up.

    Tim,
    Good to hear from you again. Still working on cell towers? There's some new thought that colocation is not the way to go, just make the providers go on power poles. That's where there going to end up anyway, so why not skip all the tall towers? Might be worth a thread elsewhere.

  5. #5
    Adopting by reference in Ga. is a no no. A zoning map must be present and correct in Ga. for adoption. Cities and counties try to bend the rules, but each time the courts strike it down. It only makes sense, people need to know how their property is being zoned.

  6. #6
    Mike,

    I think that your taking the initiative to correct private legal descriptions is beyond the purview of a public Planning Agency. (1.) let the descriptions correct themselves over time by property owner as property changes hands or as the error becomes obvious (2.)assume that the descriptions are correct until proven otherwise. In this case it would be fair to let sleeping errors lie! Why not. The parties most to gain or lose are individual property owners at time of sale and THEY should have attornies check this as part of their closing anyway. (#.) Don't let this be a special cause. It's not your war.
    And remember:
    "Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder."
    -Kinky Friedman

    John Corthorn, Planner (looking for work)

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