• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!

The Zoning Trojan Horse


In "Celebration Chronicles," Andrew Ross explores the meaning of community and new urbanism in Disney's Celebration, FL. In a chapter near the end of the book, he talks about Duany and some of the interviews he had with him, and one of the things that I find interesting is that Duany said new urbanism is basically a Trojan Horse for getting the zoning codes changed in a community. I assume he means that when a new urbanist project is introduced to the community and is then presented to the zoning board, that in order to have the project approved, current zoning would have to be changed. For many communities, this could be a drastic change and could be a huge political obstacle in the feasibility of any new urbanist proposal. What I'm wondering is this: Does anyone out there have knowledge on how the process of attempting to change the zoning code to accomodate a new urbanist project works? How does one "sell" the new urbanist project to the community and then convince them to revise the zoning code? It seems like some one in the comminuty would know what game was being played and would understand the stakes invloved in changing the zoning code. And as new zoning codes emerge from the changes induced by a new urbanist proposal, are they filled with restrictions and covenants similar to ones in condo communities and other tenants/owners associations?

Joe Iliff

Reformed City Planner
New Urbanist Zoning

The City of McKinney, Texas is just finishing amendments to the Zoning Ordinance to require new urbanism principles to be used in the design and development of a sector of the City. The City initiated the zoning amendments before a specific development proposal was made to them, but during the process of developing the regulations, a private developer "got on board" and proposed one.

These requlations affect only one sector of the City limits, and a totally undeveloped sector at that. (We do have another new zoning district with similar development regulations for the area around our historic downtown district, but I think of this as a return to the "old" urbanism as opposed to creating a "new" urban environment.)

I think an important un-asked question in your inquiry is whether the proposed zoning changes are intended to affect the whole city, or just an undeveloped area. I could certainly understand the concern of a city when someone proposes changing the zoning codes for the developed section of town from a suburban-style one to a new urbanist style, but if it's just intend for undeveloped areas, than existing development wouldn't be affected, expect by the competition of a new style.