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Zoning Houses in a central business district

Hawkeye66

Cyburbian
Messages
682
Points
24
In the new city I started in, one of the first things I am doing is getting residences out of the first floor downtown. Also, the area they had zoned for the CBD was too large and included some houses. We are re-zoning those to the contiguous residential zoning. However, there is a house that we really cant re-zone without creating a spot zoning. How would you approach that house? A special variance for that property as a residence?
 

bureaucrat#3

Member
Messages
116
Points
8
We’re starting to figure out the right zones for our CBd. We made a few blocks of residential homes into a light commercial/office district. It’s got a historic district that keeps the form and character residential looking but about half the homes are single family and the rest now are office, medium density residential, or other uses. There are some good examples of neighborhood conservation zones that protect the character and design paired with good adaptive reuse and flexible non conforming sections that work well.

One of the first things I did when I got here was kill a proposed text amendment that would allow townhouses in the heart of our CBD. We push them on the fringes of downtown but the previous director wanted to allow them in places where downtown commercial and offices should be.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,123
Points
55
We’re starting to figure out the right zones for our CBd. We made a few blocks of residential homes into a light commercial/office district. It’s got a historic district that keeps the form and character residential looking but about half the homes are single family and the rest now are office, medium density residential, or other uses. There are some good examples of neighborhood conservation zones that protect the character and design paired with good adaptive reuse and flexible non conforming sections that work well.

One of the first things I did when I got here was kill a proposed text amendment that would allow townhouses in the heart of our CBD. We push them on the fringes of downtown but the previous director wanted to allow them in places where downtown commercial and offices should be.

We require that if residential, that it's on upper floors and not street level - downtown living is a good thing for a CBD but not at the pedestrian level
 

Hawkeye66

Cyburbian
Messages
682
Points
24
That lone house will be non-conforming which means they can stay there - you could put something in your non conforming section that non conforming residential uses can make alterations and improvements so that you aren't encouraging blight

Was happy to see those provisions already in the code here which will make my job a lot easier in this case. :)
 
Messages
2,959
Points
23
...a house that we really cant re-zone without creating a spot zoning. How would you approach that house? A special variance for that property as a residence?
That lone house will be non-conforming which means they can stay there - you could put something in your non conforming section that non conforming residential uses can make alterations and improvements so that you aren't encouraging blight
Was happy to see those provisions already in the code here which will make my job a lot easier in this case. :)

It's good to read that your job was made easier because those provisions were already in the code.

I was consulted about a specific case that sounds almost like yours, only the non-conforming provisions were not yet in the code. It was ~25 years ago in an extremely well-off suburban area just outside NYC. The public & developers were carefully paying attention to the re-zoning of the lone pedestrian-level house in the proposed CBD.

The problem was that if the lone house were simply designated non-conforming then there would be a slew of applications, appeals & lawsuits to get variances for other residential dwellings in the CBD.

We mostly solved the problem by designating the lone pedestrian-level dwelling as entirely wheelchair-accessible: the front entrance, back entrance, interior, yards, detached garage, etc.
There's not too much more I should publicly write about, for older people in that area would know which house it is.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,230
Points
59
I prefer a different method on this subject.

I think ground floor dwelling units should be fine, but regulate them toward the rear of a site. Basically, require a minimum 50 foot or so set back from the frontage to dedicate the frontage for active commercial uses.

Alternatively, make ground floor dwelling units a conditional/special use and just deal with it on a case by case basis like we do at my employer.

My professional opinion is that secondary/tertiary downtown corridors should be permitted a mix as the demand for ground floor commercial space may not be there yet for the entire corridor, therefore allow full residential developments designed to convert those 'front' units to commercial when the market need arises.

But the reality is that modern building codes require not insignificant building systems' infrastructure (ie fire separation especially), so most often its likely better to just build a new building that optimizes potential future use, while also paying close attention to change of use in old buildings.
 
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Planit

Cyburbian
Messages
14,039
Points
57
We created an overlay district in the 'downtown core' - the 2 blocks around the Square since we're relatively small. Our intent was to kept 1st floor residential off the Square (we allow & promote upper story residential), but if multi-family wanted to develop close to downtown (but not on the Square) they could. Same thing with churches. They are not permitted in the core, but allowed on the perimeter (& we have a couple churches in that area already).
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,706
Points
56
We split our downtown into two districts. The historic central core does not permit 1st floor residential, but encourages upper floor residential. The periphery is more of a mixed use that encourages higher density development as well as commercial development to help supplement downtown living and enhance the vibrancy of the CBD.
 
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