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Thread: Oldest zoning code still in use?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Oldest zoning code still in use?

    I'm in the process of rewriting our town's zoning regulations. They aren't that old, but there's been more than enough duct-taping that the code is fairly awkward to use and interpret.

    I'm wondering what community has the most elderly zoning code base -- that is, who's gone the longest without a comprehensive rewrote of their land use regulations. I know the City of Buffalo zoning regulations have a code core dating to 1950, complete with specific references to "haberdasheries," "pinball parlors" and other archaic land uses.

    Any really, really old zoning regulations out there that are still in regular use?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    Old zoning

    One town I worked in had a code back from the late 50's or early 60's. It had some additions, but much of the original code was still there.
    One of the uses listed was a telegraph office. Never did have a permit issued for one, though.
    JOE ILIFF
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Telegraph offices are still listed in a lot of codes -- it was defined in the zoning code for Aurora, Colorado. I'd imagine some office somewhere, where elderly men in vests and fedoras tap out Morse code. Was this really a land use that was so common it needed to be considered in zoning regulations of the 1970s and 1980s? Would I have found a telegraph office next to the Kinney Shoes in a 1960s era shopping center?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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          Downtown's avatar
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    I hate to reveal my ignorance, but just what the hell is a "Haberdashery"?

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    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    haberdasher

    A haberdasher is someone who sells mens clothes and hats.
    The most famous haberdasher???







    The great Harry S. Truman was a haberdasher before entering politics.
    JOE ILIFF
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    Debt is normal . . . Be weird!
    Dave Ramsey

    "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    I don't know exactly how old our code is, but it is not in electronic form, and a copy of it is very hard to come by. I know of two copies in our office (which is quite large). The people who keep them do not like them to be taken out of their office, so when I have to look up something, I have to sit in their office. If they are not in that day, I have to wait until another day. I think that when the code was written a long time ago they only made a few copies and now they are quite rare.

    I have never seen our comprehensive plan, which is also quite old and not in electrolic form. The planning section tells us that they have it, but they will not give it to anybody or let anybody borrow it. When we need to look up something, we have to send an e-mail to one of the people inthe planning section and they will give us an answer in a few days. I have asked it I could just look it up myself, and was told no.

  7. #7
    Member Mary's avatar
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    planasaurus,

    Doesn't your office believe in copy machines??

    Mary

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    I know, Mary, it is very strange. There is a lot of 'stealing of job responsibilities' that goes on here. We have many units of the planning dept that are doing the same thing, and each of them gets upset at the other for stepping on each others toes. For example, I was once the chair of a special land use comittee to oversee permitting special major industrial land uses. Another unit, for whatever reason, decided that they were going to be the chair, and just took over and I was shut out of the loop. I guess that is why the people who hold the ordinance and comprehensive plan are so protective of them - it is job security.

    Sorry, I guess that is a little off the subject of the thread

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Oldest Zoning Code Still Being Used?

    During the height of the Cold War there were two missle silos in town. They are still present, but abandoned years ago and now on private property. Our zoning code dates to 1963 (think circa Bay of Pigs) and allows military installations by Conditional Use in all Exclusive Agriculture District. Do you actually think the Pentagon would BOTHER applying for a local conditonal use grant???

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Planasaurus, I thought I had heard everything til your post. How can plans and ordinances be kept secret within a department? I have had trouble getting things from other departments, but not internally. (but the largest place I worked was a staff of 20). Why not get a citizen friend/neighbor to demand copies through the Freedom of Information Act so that you can have them?

    One time I hit delay after delay getting a water and sewer master plan from public works. So during a lunch hour I just stole a copy.

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Originally posted by mike gurnee
    Planasaurus, I thought I had heard everything til your post. How can plans and ordinances be kept secret within a department?
    At one planning agency where I worked for a while, only about 65% of the case files were kept in a commonly accessible area; more often than not, those were the cases that were handled by planners who have since left. Otherwise, the filing system was "It's gonna' be in the office of the planner that originally handled the case." There were eight planners, the majority old timers who had years ... no, decades of case files piled up on their office floors.

    When I was PIC (Planner In Charge), it always seemed as if I got hit with about ten or twelve requests from the public referring one of those hidden cases. Finding them went something like this ....

    * Find out the T-R-S-Q of the case location. (For those outside the U.S, that's Township, Range, Section, Quarter Section.)

    * Go to the card file, where records of all case names, file numbers, details and results were written. Find the card, and write down the case number and name.

    * Go to the file cabinets, and find the file. Better not be something before 1970, though, or otherwise you'll have to dig out the banker's boxes.

    * Realize that you can't find the file. Start asking around, hunting down the seven remaining planners to see if they have the file. "Who's got MRD 79-1346?" Inevitably, it's the last planner you ask that handled that case. Either that, or the planner with the critical file is on vacation or "in the field."

    * Defend yourself against the snotty planner (coughRichaelcough) who gets upset because you're always asking around wondering where certain case files are, bothering them when they already have enough to do. "You've been here long enough -- you should know who handled what case by now."
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    I guess the problem that I have is similar to you having trouble getting information from other departments. We seem to act as if we are several seperate departments, maybe becase we are so huge. About a year ago the director wanted to address this problem, and we all went to a Planning Department retreat to discuss how we could all get along as a department. I don't think that it did any good (but there was a lot of talk about Jesus, Dan).

    We have the old timers filing system too, but it is not kept in any uniform order. If the old timer who was handleing the case is now gone, the file usually is too.

  13. #13
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Bumping this old, crusty thread because:

    1) Buffalo is working on a new form-based zoning code to replace their 62 year old Euclidian code.

    2) The old code is online at http://www.buffalogreencode.com/docu..._Ordinance.pdf. It's a typical Euclidian code; more intensive districts permit a number of uses, plus all uses permitted in the less intensive districts. Browsing through its pages, it seems like a product not of the 1950s but the 1930s. These old codes might be laughable, but they offer a look back into the zeitgeist of the city during the era. For example, in the R2 district:

    H. Hospital or sanatorium, when located at least 50 feet from the nearest property line of any other lot in any R District, but not including any institution primarily for contagious disease patients, for mental patients, epileptics or drug or liquor addicts, for the insane or feebleminded or for penal or correctional purposes; any of the foregoing excluded institutions when located on a lot having an area of at least four acres and in a building at least 100 feet from the nearest property line of any other lot in any R District.
    This.



    Not this.



    Also in the R2:

    (d) Residential beauty parlors, limited to two chairs, when located within a dwelling, but only after notice and a public hearing is held and individual approval is granted by the Common Council.


    I've seen provisions for home barber shops and beauty salons in many ancient zoning codes.

    The C1 district includes a list of uses that might be typically found in a small town Main Street of the era. Millinery, dressmanking, notions ...

    B. Any neighborhood retail business or service, such as grocery, fruit or vegetable store, meat market, delicatessen, bakery, confectionary store, drugstore, shoe store or shoe repair shop, custom dressmaking or millinery shop, tailor shop, clothing store, clothes-cleaning pickup station, self-service launderette, florist or gift shop, book or stationery store, dry goods or notions store, hardware or household appliance store, jewelry store, barbershop or beauty parlor, photographer or any use equivalent to the above but not including any use first permitted in a C2 or less-restricted district.
    The Downtown Commercial district allows:

    B. Representative service uses shall include:
    Automobile rental
    Banks
    Barbershops
    Beauty parlors
    Dry-cleaning pickup services
    Eating and drinking establishments
    Electrolysis studios
    Gasoline service stations
    Laundry establishments
    Loan offices
    Messenger offices
    Parking facilities
    Shoe or hat repair shops
    Tailor or dressmaking shops
    Telegraph offices
    Trade or professional schools
    Travel bureaus
    Good 'ol telegraph offices, the bane of many a grizzled zoning code.



    M1 is the light industrial district, which allows uses that would be considered on the far side of heavy in most cities.

    (1) Automobile assembling.

    (2) Bag cleaning.

    (3) Coal pocket, tipple or trestle.

    (4) Concrete products manufacture.

    (5) Creamery or milk bottling plant.

    (6) Foundry casting nonferrous metal or electric foundry, not causing noxious fumes or odors.

    (7) Ice manufacturing plant; cold storage plant serving commercial or industrial establishments; ice storage in excess of five tons.

    (8) Welding or other metal working shop, provided that obnoxious, disturbing or annoying noises or vibrations or both are confined within the premises.

    (9) The following uses when located not less than 100 feet distant from the nearest property line of a lot in any R District.
    (a) Carnival, circus or similar transient amusement enterprise.
    (b) Flammable liquids when approved by the Fire Department: underground storage only and not to exceed 25,000 gallons when of Class I or Class II; aboveground storage in quantities less than tank car lots when not of Class I or Class II.
    (c) Livery stable or riding academy.
    (d) Freight terminal.
    (e) Truck terminal, including any premises where any vehicle used in long-distance freight hauling or where any tractor-trailer combination or automobile conveyer is parked, loaded or unloaded, provided that after July 1, 1956, no such uses shall be permitted as new conforming uses in any M1 or M2 District without the prior written approvals and recommendations of the Commissioner of Transportation and the City Planning Board stating that the public welfare and safety will not be unduly and adversely affected because of such new uses.
    (f) Storage, sorting or baling wastepaper or rags.

    (10) Any use equivalent to the above, but not including any use first permitted or specifically prohibited in the M2 District or any use which is or may become hazardous, noxious or offensive in an M1 District by reason of the emission of odor, dust, smoke, cinders, gas, fumes, noise, vibration, refuse matter or water-carried waste.

    (11) Accessory uses and structures.
    Yup, you can build an auto plant, foundry, and coal tipple in a light industrial district. Bag cleaning, though ... why is that singled out?

    M2 is even crustier and more old-timey:

    (1) Boilermaking, structural steel or pipe works, foundries, drop hammers, locomotive or railway car manufacturing, railroad roundhouse shop, rail classification yards and ship building and repair.

    (2) Brewing and distilling of beer, ale or liquors.

    (3) Central station light or power plant.

    (4) Concrete mixing plant; rock or stone crusher, rock quarry; manufacture of structural clay products.

    (5) Grain elevator, flour mill or cereal manufacture; cattle, dog or poultry feed manufacture, except from refuse mash or refuse grain; malt manufacture.

    (6) Flammable liquids when approved by the Fire Department: underground storage only and not to exceed 50,000 gallons when of Class I or Class II; above-ground storage when not of Class I or Class II.

    (7) Junkyard, including auto wrecking or dismantling, subject to the requirements of Chapter 254, Junk Dealers and Pawnbrokers, of the Code of the City of Buffalo.

    (8) Manufacture and storage of acetylene gas (in excess of 15 pounds' pressure per square inch), acid (noncorrosive), ammonia, asbestos, bleaching powder, chlorine, dextrine, disinfectant, enamel, fungicide, glucose, insecticide, lacquer, linoleum, oilcloth, paint, paper and pulp, perfume, potash, printing ink, shellac, starch, turpentine or varnish, or grinding colors by machine; manufacture, refining or distillation of asphalt, carbon, coal (including by-products), coke, creosote (including treatment), gas and tar.

    (9) Manufacture of babbitt metal or other nonferrous alloys.

    (10) Manufacture or processing of meat products, but not including operation of an abattoir or rendering of grease, tallow or fats; poultry or rabbit slaughterhouse, including packing or storage for wholesale purposes.

    (11) Manufacture of pickles, sauerkraut, vinegar, yeast, soda or soda compounds.

    (12) Metal plating works, electrolytic or hot-dip process.

    (13) Planing mill, sawmill or woodworking mill.

    (14) Raw hides or skins, storage, curing or tanning.

    (15) Any use equivalent to the above, but not including any use first permitted or specifically prohibited in the M3 District or any use which is or may become hazardous, noxious or offensive in the M2 District by reason of the emission of odor, dust, smoke, cinders, gas, fumes, noise, vibration, refuse matter or water-carried waste.

    (a) Abattoirs in an urban renewal area for which an urban renewal plan has been duly approved pursuant to the provisions of Article 15 of the General Municipal Law; provided, however, that said urban renewal plan contains performance standards covering abattoirs which are more restrictive than the provisions of this chapter.

    (16) Accessory uses and structures.


    Roundhouses, sauerkraut manufacturing, ship building, and rabbit slaughterhouses.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Several years ago I came across an alcohol reference in a zoning code that you could tell got lifted verbatim from some hoary Prohibition era statute due to it's awkwardly legalistic and overly specific wording.
    "....shall not include those establishments intended for either the dispensation or consumption of: beer, ale, wine, whisky and other alcoholic-spirits or intoxicating tinctures..."

    Haven't encountered any references to telegraph offices, apothecaries, or haberdasheries, but do note many zoning codes in the region still include drive-in theaters (yeah, I know they still exist in the world but it's not like anyone's going to construct a new one these days)
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  15. #15
    The state zoning enabling legislation in Massachusetts was enacted in 1930 and has yet to be updated. I think Boston is the exception. It's legislation was rewritten in 1954.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Our zoning code was adopted in 1955 and is still in regular use. I haven't noticed any terminology that was too archaic though. It would be interesting to find the original version and see what it looked like before 6 decades of ordinance text amendments.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Haven't encountered any references to telegraph offices, apothecaries, or haberdasheries, but do note many zoning codes in the region still include drive-in theaters (yeah, I know they still exist in the world but it's not like anyone's going to construct a new one these days)
    Our code specifically has Open-Air drive-in theaters as a conditional use. We adopted full zoning in '02 so thats when this code is from.

    I know I have a copy of the original code (dating back to the 70's I believe) somewhere in my office. I'll hunt it down and see if anything interesting is in it.

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