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Thread: Strength of small town zoning ordinances

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Somewhere between the mountains and the ocean.

    Strength of small town zoning ordinances

    Town A has 5,000 people, and does not have very strict development regulations. Town B has 50,000 people, and has super strict regulations, and has for the better part of 15 years. But why?

    With few exceptions, it seems that smaller towns have less strict development regulations compared to lager communities. However, it seems that small towns have a lot more to loose with bad development, than a large town would. One of the responses from people has been "we can't do anything that will prevent people from developing." but they are only willing to think of the short term gain vs the long term determinant. The other response that I often get is "we don't have the staff resources to enforce stricter regulations."

    What are your thoughts? Do you think that small towns have less restrictive regulations? If so, what can be done to change the political view of regulations to help them realize that good regulations now will result in an amazing community in the future?
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
    Aug 2001
    Rustbelt Incognito
    It seems like you are really asking if less restrictive regulations can be good regulations.

    I think they can be, but not always.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
    Aug 2005
    in a meeting
    Small towns often don't have a lot of zoning not just for political reasons (small government control kind of thing) but also because many don't have staff to enforce or interpret them, and, most notable, is they don't have any development so it's not on their radar

    I tell my small communities that with their current regulations, they are ripe to get development they might not want to see happen - I encourage them to be proactive so that they are ready - for my area, people are getting pushed into the small interior towns as the coastal towns' housing prices are going - I try to get them to see their community as a full build out and then plan/regulate accordingly
    Kim Wexler: Either you fit the jacket... or the jacket fits you.

  4. #4
    Apr 2011
    End of the cul-de-sac
    The most detailed and strict ordinance I have used was in a town of 6,000. They were a relatively young town built around creating a new school system and better planning control. It had a lot of good regulations and design standards. The difficult part of it was enforcement. I was a one person shop with multiple hats to wear including managing outsourced public works and engineering. It was really difficult to manage all of the aspects of development regulations, plan review, arch review and then inspections on the backside. I think that would be the same for more most small towns if there is any development at all taking place.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
    Mar 2002
    Upper left edge
    In small towns, the externalities of development decisions often are dealt with informally, through personal interaction (Bob, what the hell are you thinking? Get that thing away from my property), and people sometimes make development decisions to avoid externalities in order not to piss off your friends and neighbors. Obviously that is not universal, but it is more likely to happen in small towns. In larger towns, there is less of those sorts of interactions, especially when a development decision may have widespread externalities.

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