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Thread: Campus zoning

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Campus zoning

    In the community where I work, there's two large private institutions of higher learning, and a large medical center. The underlying zoning on their campuses is a patchwork of rural and residential districts, with educational and medical uses permitted as special uses pr through use variances. (Use variances are permitted under New York's planning enabling legislation.) The intent of regulating campus uses this way was to preserve sensitive open space and natural features on their property.

    I recommended some form of campus zoning in the draft comprehensive plan to replace the current jerry-rigged method of regulation. Can anyone recommend some good examples of campus zoning? How would you approach campus zoning?
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  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I don't examples for you at the moment, but I think one way to address long range development and protection of sensitive features is require the review and approval of masterplans for the sites (especially if each individual entity has all it's facilities in a contiguous well defined area)

    This masterplan could be done through a PUD-ish process and have short-mid-long range development benchmarks (kind of like PUDs of yore). This way the masterplan can specifically delineate items and areas for the major elements of a campus - location and 3-D envelopes for future buildings, protection of sensitive natural and man-made features and the heirarchy of traffic ciruclation (both internal and external pedestrian and vehicle access, ciruclation and parking etc).
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    I don't examples for you at the moment, but I think one way to address long range development and protection of sensitive features is require the review and approval of masterplans for the sites (especially if each individual entity has all it's facilities in a contiguous well defined area)

    This masterplan could be done through a PUD-ish process and have short-mid-long range development benchmarks (kind of like PUDs of yore). This way the masterplan can specifically delineate items and areas for the major elements of a campus - location and 3-D envelopes for future buildings, protection of sensitive natural and man-made features and the heirarchy of traffic ciruclation (both internal and external pedestrian and vehicle access, ciruclation and parking etc).
    IMO an approach like this won't fly unless you are dealing with really, really community-minded institutions. Most institutions/colleges want as much flexibility as possible with their planning, so they probably wouldn't agree to such a process. An important point particular to NY state: this type of planning can trigger SEQR reviews that might require an EIS, so the applicant would rather incrementalize as much as possible.

    There was a college in the last community I worked in that supposedly had a "secret" master plan. It had a somewhat combative relationship with the surrounding neighborhood, so I can see why they kept it under lock and key.

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Good input, hill. My such experiences were in IL, but with a local and quickly expanding hospital and a large (3000+ acre) horse racing track. It worked for that community because it provided definitive direction/assurance to the community balanced well with the future needs of the institution/business.

    I mean I would presume such large campus-oriented entities would already have "masterplans". Making it "public" and negotitated is best for all (in an ideal world, I know, but it can work in the real world as well).
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Make the thing a "public" use with an overlay. The overlay should correspond to the university's master plan and write some fluff policies about working together and other BS.

    Our local U made things easy, it is outside of the City Limits and exempt from all zoning/planning/CEQA regs.
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    Here we have an Educational/Medical/Institutional zoning classification for our hospitals, colleges, and universities. The short rundown is that it requires an Institutional Master Plan that shows a 10- and 25- year horizon of development for the zone, addresses transportation, environmental, and open space impacts for all potential development in the zone, and in exchange allows compliant development under the Plan to an approval process that is a little more expeditious than in a traditional zoning district (Only site Plan approval instead of site plan/P.C./Council approval for college or hospital uses, for example). Many of the types of campuses that fall into this category are now part of an EMI district here.

    You can find our version in Section 905.03 of our code, available here: http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13525

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    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Make the thing a "public" use with an overlay. The overlay should correspond to the university's master plan and write some fluff policies about working together and other BS.

    Our local U made things easy, it is outside of the City Limits and exempt from all zoning/planning/CEQA regs.
    Is that because of the California Coastal Commission?
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Off-topic:

    Quote Originally posted by dw914er View post
    Is that because of the California Coastal Commission?
    State Law Man. School Districts, University of California and CSU is all exempt, but the run it anyways, yanno out of the goodness of their heart and to keep consultants busy
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Off-topic:


    State Law Man. School Districts, University of California and CSU is all exempt, but the run it anyways, yanno out of the goodness of their heart and to keep consultants busy
    Off-topic:
    Are you sure? I don't remember any specific exemptions that those agencies outright. Sure, if they did anything that fit within a categorical or statutory exemption for a project, then that's one thing, but that they, as an entity, we not exempt by specific statute. All of those public agencies, some of which also serving as trustee agencies, would still subject to the CEQA guidelines, correct? I brought up the CCC/CCA because I know certain plans go through them as a functional equivalent to CEQA.


    That said, I have very little insight into my former U planned things. I know that they have some sort of master plan and zoning guidelines somewhere, though we never really checked it out in any of my classes.
    Last edited by dw914er; 10 Jul 2012 at 6:16 PM.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Having worked in a few college towns, we always included campuses and hospitals in an Institutional zoning district. Since these are conditional uses, they would be subject to plan commission review on an individual basis. Most had developed campus plans, but in general, the public and even the city were left out of the planning process. Completing the comprehensive plan for one large city, I started talking with the xplanning staff about the master plan for the college campus, completed a couple years earlier, and found out that none of them had even seen it.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    I should also mention that the university in town is zoned as "Educational," which allows educational uses provided that new structures receive the commission's review and approval. I know they have their own master plan, though I am unaware how much guidance the City provided during that formulation.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    We don't have that problem yet, but in a couple of similar situations we have given a Special Use designation and defined it in a general way. These "quasi-public" bodies have a staff that is capable of producing internal planning and preservation of open space to the benefit of their owners, who are not "developers" interested in making a profit, selling, and moving on.

    The Special Use designation avoids the appearance of "spot zoning" or zoning in too much detail.

    Another precaution would be to reserve the right to approve any Site Plan changes or any proposed changes within 100 feet of any property line. Sometimes, institutions tend to put their garbage/trash/recyclables/yard-maintence equipment at the "back" of the property near the property line. This could be detrimental to future development adjacent to abutting property uses.

    They still must get Building Permits, of course, and comply with parking, setbacks, signage, etc.

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    I'm in MA where the Dover Amendment protects educational and religious institutions from much zoning, but FWIW, I can tell you that my university exists in an educational district overlay, and that seems to be what's generally done around here--there's a special overlay district which supercedes the underlying district. On the thought of setbacks, any campus property within 50 feet of another district must meet the dimensional requirements of the adjacent district for continuity, I assume this is for ensuring visual continuity, at least. The university has its own campus planning division and they basically run their own show, they just have to pass changes by the planning board, but I don't think there is any actual approval involved (all permits etc of course apply). If your institutions have their own master plans, how do you coordinate this with your zoning?

  14. #14
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I did one in my previous town that worked well - I used a process of meeting with campus officials and their direct abutters to come up with it - PM me and I will send you a linky...

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    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Abra said:

    If your institutions have their own master plans, how do you coordinate this with your zoning?
    In the Comprehensive Plan we indicate such "Public - Quasi-public Use" to encourage its location as part of the planning process. Then if we approve their concept, we zone it as a "Special Use" with a number such as -1 or -2 etc. Airport, Retirement Village, University, etc.

    We do not try to zone within the Special Use district once designated as such. They must still comply with Signage, Building Code, Parking, etc.

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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Abra said:

    In the Comprehensive Plan we indicate such "Public - Quasi-public Use" to encourage its location as part of the planning process. Then if we approve their concept, we zone it as a "Special Use" with a number such as -1 or -2 etc. Airport, Retirement Village, University, etc.

    We do not try to zone within the Special Use district once designated as such. They must still comply with Signage, Building Code, Parking, etc.
    Interesting, thanks. I'll bet there's a lot of different ways to approach this but that makes sense to me.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I must add that we also require Site Plan Review and Approval for any new buildings, but different Uses within the designated area do not change the overall designation of Special Use.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I would have met my goals if the institutions (college, school district, hospital, etc.) would discuss their expansion plans with the planner.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Boston College Master Plan Submission to the Zoning Commission

    Dan's original comment and question for input was:

    I recommended some form of campus zoning in the draft comprehensive plan to replace the current jerry-rigged method of regulation. Can anyone recommend some good examples of campus zoning? How would you approach campus zoning?
    I found this Boston College Master Plan on the internet, which was noted as being the submission to the Zoning Commission. It seems very thorough even including existing sewer layout (which could heavily impact city facilities), comments (which I could not download), open space/pedestrian layouts, academic areas, housing areas, no-build zones, ten year plan, athletic areas, and photos showing magnitude of pedestrian traffic, etc.

    http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/sites/i...ts/zoning.html

    I have not gotten into the plan other than to just scan its contents, but it seems very thorough and would apply to many other campus plan situations to serve as an overall guide.

    I don't know if it is a "good" plan or not, since it is working with a lot of existing conditions that could probably be improved upon if a college campus was to be planned from conception.

    Dan, let us know what you think.

    Have you come across any campus master plans that you would recommend?

  20. #20
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Great discussion, all!

    The response to our first draft of the new comprehensive plan from one of the major universities in town seemed to stem from a misunderstanding of the plan's land use categories. Instead of single-use future land use categories, we used "character districts" that weren't use specific, but rather reflected a desired "look and feel". However, the reviewing parties at the school based their comments as if they were use-specific. Portions of the school were in the Institutional, Agricultural and Conservation categories, and they wanted it to be all Institutional, which we described as being the built-up portions of a college/university or grounds of a major institution. We're probably going to change the names of the categories.

    Anyhow, they also seemed to have the impression that this was a future zoning map, not just a comp plan future land use map, which got me thinking about the challenges we have regarding campus or institutional zoning for a school with a much broader range of typologies than found at a typical urban, rural or suburban campus. We're probably going to have some form of transect-based zoning governed by a regulating plan for new neighborhoods. Why not the same for campuses? Maybe something like ...

    INS-1 Institutional: natural (conservation areas, arboretums, etc)
    INS-2 Institutional: agricultural (research farms, equestrian/animal facilities, related uses)
    INS-3 Open (athletic grounds, large greens)
    INS-4 Campus edge (parking, low-rise buildings, quads)
    INS-5 Campus core (mid-rise buildings, quads, stadiums)
    INS-SP Special (maintenance facilities, heating plants)
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I wonder if we may be getting into too much detail with college campuses.

    Shouldn't the city plannig department be more concerned with the impact an entity may have on its existing (or future) surroundings? For example an industrial use could have a major impact, and a college use - not so much.

    We may be overstepping our role as planners and creating animosity when we try to dictate the internal uses of a college campus and their future intended uses depending on their gooming of discrete future donors etc. It may be that they know better how their internal functioning should relate to itself than we outsiders do. We could still give them recommended and mandatory planning standards for parking, open space between buildings, circulation, access for utility, fire and police protection, etc.

    I think colleges have been one of city planning's good resources. It is just when they put their undesireable uses along their perimeter that we may have concerns on the impact of adjacent property values and appearances along public streets.

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