By R. J. Treharne
Published by R.J. Treharne at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 R.J. Treharne
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February 2, 2016
Simple Zoning is a proposed enhancing of traditional zoning classifications that offers the advantages of both simplicity and flexibility – particularly with regard to promoting friendly mixed uses while still protecting property values. Simple Zoning uses traditional zoning classifications (Commercial, Business, Multi-family, Residential and Agricultural) while at the same time introducing new zoning classifications that deal with the myriad of activities that do not neatly fall within these traditional categories. These new categories would include such non-profit activities as: churches, lodges, homeless shelters, counseling centers, health services, parks and recreation. In addition, Simple Zoning incorporates separate zoning classifications for the various levels of governmental functions, such as: administrative offices, schools, fire stations, sewage treatment plants, public transportation and roadways. Simple Zoning stratifies zoning into four social levels: Neighborhood, Community, Municipal and Regional to reflect and respect the varying degrees of social acceptability of each zoning classification. All new zoning classifications relate directly to the International Building Code (IBC), the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), and the Municode format. The primary purpose of Simple Zoning is to simplify, standardize and place into a hierarchy zoning classifications for more flexibility as well as an easier understanding and implementation; providing more latitude to the zoning official. If implemented, this will not only encourage more mixed use, more responsible growth and help encourage development; it should also help reduce urban sprawl and its side effect: vehicular traffic and energy consumption; in effect, helping to foster sustainability through planning.
Presently, most municipalities use some form of zoning classification called Euclidean Zoning. Despite its name, Euclidean Zoning classification has nothing to do with Euclidean Geometry. Rather, the Euclidean name refers to the town in which zoning was first used and challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court back in 1926: Euclid, Ohio. Ironically, the Euclidean Zoning name does somewhat reflect the mathematical principles of Euclidean Geometry; that is, it deals with an ideal and perfect world of two-dimensional areas. This is Euclidean Zoning’s primary strength and its fundamental weakness. For example, in Euclidean Zoning the zoning classification Multi-family is separated from Businesses so that only multi-family can be constructed in Multi-family zoning and only businesses can be constructed in Business zoning. The strength of the zoning separation is that it protects property owners from having near them “undesirable” activities or activities that could lower their land value. Most property owners would agree that they do not want to have an all-night auto body shop located next door to their residence, or a sewage treatment plant next to their restaurant. Hence, Euclidean Zoning was designed to protect property owner rights and their land values; and, it has worked so well it has been in use for 90 years, albeit with some limitations and some unintended consequences.
An unintended consequent of Euclidean Zoning segregation was the elimination of mixed use activities that were once common place in our cities which were surprisingly energy efficient and helped to reduce crime. The classic example is the business owner having apartments or even his own home over his grocery store. The worst consequence of zoning segregation has been the suburban sprawl by which any activity, such as even going to the church, school or work now requires vehicular transportation. To compensate for this separation of some activities and to reintroduce more “mixed use” in planning the Euclidean Zoning has had a multitude of alterations, with each municipality creating their own set of “solutions”. Terms such as “permitted, allowed, prohibited, accessory, conditional, restricted, principle and special” are now scattered throughout most municipal zoning codes trying to allow for all conceivable combinations of desired mixed uses. Meanwhile, inside each classification are often levels such as “low, medium and high; heavy and light; minor and major; active and passive; urban and rural” and numerical levels that are often further subdivided with alphabetical subclasses such as C-2B or R-1AAA. Many times, mainly because of the increasing complexity of the zoning classification system created, municipalities find it simply easier to just create a brand new zoning classification rather than try and work within or modify an existing one. Unfortunately, this only compounds the problem and further segregates the activities. Many times, these new zoning districts are really more political “solutions” to economic or social problems in a sector of the community or a solution to settle disputes among landowners rather than an attempt to create an equitable zoning system.
Alternate Zoning Schemes
Euclidean Zoning has been cited many times from urban planners to economists to psychologists as one of the main culprits for our fragmented and dysfunctional society, not to mention a source for a tremendous amount of waste in both energy and time in commuting thus hindering our ability for sustainability. Several alternate schemes to Euclidean Zoning have been proposed in the past such as Performance or Effects-Based Planning, Incentive Planning and Form-based Planning, each with the intent of creating more flexibility, more variety and more equitable systems of land allocation. These systems try to mitigate environmental impact, provide public amenities, mass transit or provide affordable housing by using various systems of incentives or rewards to developers. But, while well intended, these alternate schemes are often extremely difficult to understand let alone implement and thus have not gained much acceptance. Designed based codes, such as the one adopted in Louisville, Kentucky in 2003, have been somewhat more successful in that they begin to address the different levels of urban activity within a city by creating “form districts” within the city. But even these do not address many of the other problems inherit with most zoning classification systems nor does it make it easy for a municipality to transition into a uniform zoning classification system. Thus, as a result of being unable to significantly improve upon the 90-year old Euclidean Zoning system, most zoning maps today are not much more than a collection of what has happened as opposed to what is planned.
Hierarchical or Nested Zoning
What is desperately needed to foster more sustainable urban growth is a simpler set of universal zoning classifications that accurately describe their intended use and their permitted activities and places them in a hierarchical or “nested” order so that each zoning classification is encompassed or is a subset of another zone classification. That is, once a zoning classification has been defined with its permitted uses, then it with all its permitted uses are automatically considered as permitted uses in any other zoning class of which it is a subset. A simple illustration of this type of “nested” zoning already occurs in some zoning regulations such as I-2 (Heavy Industrial) will sometimes allow all activities that occur in I-1 (Light Industrial) or C-3 (Heavy Commercial) will allow activities that occur in C-2 (Light Commercial). What is rarer to find in a zoning code is when two different classifications are listed as being permitted in one another; such as, I-1 (Light Industrial) allowing C-3 (Heavy Commercial) activities. The problem occurs when one asks: “As a land owner which would I rather have adjacent to my problem – heavy commercial or light industrial?” Obviously, it would depend on what activities are allowed in each zoning classification in order to be able to determine which one is more detrimental to the neighboring property. Not surprisingly, many zoning classifications do not permit other zoning classifications to be permitted within them, mainly because of these potential conflicts. But when you carefully look at these zoning divisions, you will realize that what makes an activity “offensive” or detrimental to the adjoining property’s land value is often not so much the activity but the noticeable or disruptive attributes of the activity. For instance, does the activity generate excessive noise, odors or traffic? One would think that most residents would rather have a farm next to their residence as opposed to an industrial facility. However, a strong odor from a bakery is not near as offensive as a weak odor from a hog farm. Therefore, the key to any successful hierarchical zoning classification is appropriate stratification which takes into account these variables and gives specific examples of permitted uses with good definitions of all the terms used in describing those activities. But once this is achieved, then most zoning classifications can be “nested” inside one another so that any activity approved in a zoning classification would also be approved within zoning classifications that are of “higher” order. For example, if properly described, a Multi-family M-1 (low density) classification would not only automatically be permitted in M-2 (medium density) and M-3 (high density) zoning classifications but it would also automatically be permitted in a Business classification which in-turn is permitted in a Commercial classification as illustrated below:
In effect, nested zoning is like adding a third dimension to the two-dimensional Euclidean Zoning system. The benefit of this three-dimensional zoning is that once a zoning classification is defined then it is defined for all other higher order zoning classifications of which it is a subset.
Neighborhood, Community, Municipal and Regional
Another limitation of standard Euclidean Zoning is that most zoning classifications do not take into account their levels of intended use from a social impact point of view; that is, relative to what degree of urban level in which they are placed. For example, is the activity located in a Neighborhood setting? Or, is it located along a major vehicular corridor within a Community setting (a collection of Neighborhoods); or, is located somewhere within a Municipal setting (a collection of Communities); or, is it in a Regional setting (a collection of Municipalities)? Some commercial activities, such as a convenience store or a daycare center, are welcomed amenities to have in your Community and near your Neighborhood; whereas, other business activities such as a car service center or a counseling center for drug addiction, while both still needed in society, want to be located somewhere else; anywhere, other than near your neighborhood. Everyone understands the necessity of a landfill or sewage treatment plant, but just not in their back yard. Of course, this is just not practical. These activities have to be located somewhere. Unfortunately, economics and not planning often dictate the location of these needed, but often regarded as “undesirable” activities. Typically, only the wealthy are able to live in the estates far away from these activities and the poor and lower middle class are compelled to tolerate them. Eventually, the most offensive activities are forced either into the poorest property districts or near property owned by the government (who cannot complain); even though from a planning point of view these may be the worst possible locations for them. Thus, any new zoning classification system should take into account not only the hierarchy of the activity but the hierarchy of the social necessity and their impact upon the surrounding community. To accomplish this, zoning needs to be stratified according to its place in the Neighborhood, in the Community, in the Municipality, or in the Region.
Public, Private and Social Services
In addition, most existing zoning classifications primarily address only the categories of activities based upon private land ownership or free enterprise activities such as commerce and industry. For example, there are usually many zoning classifications of residential property and many levels separating offices, businesses, storage facilities and manufacturing; but, generally there are only a hand few of zoning classifications for the variety of other governmental, civic or social service activities which occur in the municipality. For example, publicly owned land is commonly lumped into a single classification such as (G) Governmental or (P) Public. This zoning classification could include anything from a public playground to a toxic waste landfill. Obviously, the location of these activities would alter the land values surrounding them; yet, they are rarely reflected in any zoning map. Similarly, roadways have no zoning classifications at all. Streets unfortunately get their own set of gradients such as: alley, residential street, collector road, connector road, minor artery, major artery, urban highway or “scenic corridor,” whatever that means. Yet, roads also drastically affect land value and are not represented well on zoning maps. Likewise, common and usually non-profit social services such as churches, lodges, community centers, thrift shops, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are usually treated as a “conditional” uses of the private property category. These services often generate much debate at council meetings from “concerned” citizens who recognize the need for the social service, but just not near where they live!
Thus, it is important to be able to divide zoning classifications and their associated activities into three separate categories: Public, Private and Social Services. The Public category would typically include governmentally owned land and governmental functions such as public schools, administrative offices, public utilities, public transportation and roadways. The Private category would typically include privately owned land and private enterprise such as commercial, business, storage, agricultural, single and multi-family residences. The non-profit Social Services category would typically include private property that is owned by a non-profit organization and that is intended for public use. These non-profit organizations usually provide important social services to the community and are often either regulated or even supported by government funding. The non-profit Social Services category would include activities such as hospitals, clinics, counseling services, community centers, assisted living facilities, churches, lodges, daycare, historical preservation sites as well as parks, historical preservation and public recreation. Of, course many of these equivalent activities can also be found in the private sector.
The Categories of Public, Private and Social Services can further be sub-divided into levels (Such as B-1, C-2, L-3 and U-4) reflecting their respective urban setting (Neighborhood, Community, Municipal and Regional) and their relative degree of hazard to the community or their anticipated negative attributes such as traffic generation. For example, a (x)-1 level activity could be regarded non-hazardous and/or low traffic generating. A (x)-2 level activity could be regarded as low-hazard and/or moderate traffic generating and a (x)-3 level activity could be regarded as moderate-hazard or high traffic generating.
As shown on the following page in the chart entitled “Simple Zoning”, the zoning classification system proposed is a two-way table of functional categories and societal levels as previously described. From this arrangement, all zoning classifications can be ordered into a three by four matrix yielding twelve divisions. The three vertical categories correspond to Public, Private and Social Services (non-profit). The four horizontal levels correspond to the four types of urban settings: Neighborhood, Community, Municipal and Regional. Within each of these twelve divisions are their respective subdivisions identifying specific zoning classifications. Under the Private category there are the traditional zoning groups of (F) Factory (i.e., Industrial), (S) Storage, © Commercial, (B) Business, (M) Multi-family, ® Residential, (A) Agricultural and (V) Vacant Land. Under the Public category are (U) Utilities, (G) Governmental Facilities, (E) Educational Facilities and (T) Transportation. Under the non-profit Social Services category are (I) Institutions, (O) Organizations, (L) Living Facilities, (D) Denominations and (P) Parks and Preservation. Together, these twelve divisions can encompass all urban and rural levels and all types of zoning activity. In addition, the twelve divisions also relate to each other both vertically and horizontally within their functional category and at their societal levels as either a permitted, conditional or associated uses of one another. See chart on the next page.
For example, under the Private category not only are R-1 (Residential Single family) uses automatically permitted in R-2, R-3 and R-4, they are also permitted in M-1, M-2 and M-3 (Multi-family) zoning classifications. Likewise, they are also permitted in all Business (B-1, B-2 and B-3), all Commercial (C-1, C-2 and C-3) and even all Storage (S-1 and S-2) and Factory (F1 & F2) zoning classifications because these zoning classifications are “above” them in the category hierarchy. This category hierarchy is based upon the premise that a land owner would rather have a business located next to him as opposed to a factory and an apartment building as opposed to a business and a single family residence as opposed to an apartment building. Similarly, under the Public category E-1 (Educational) is permitted not only in E-2 and E-3 classifications but also in all Governmental (G-1, G-2 and G-3) and all Utility (U-1, U-2, U-3 and U-4) zoning classifications. Likewise, in the non-profit Social Services category D-1 (Denominational) is permitted not only in D-2 and D-3 zoning classifications, but also in all Living Facilities (L-1, L-2 and L-3) , in all Organizational Activities (O-1, O-2 and O-3), and in all Institutional (I-1, I-2 and I-3) classifications.
Furthermore, the Neighborhood (as well as Community, Municipal and Regional) level Social Services category zoning classifications have corresponding and conditional relationships with the Neighborhood (Community, Municipal and Regional level Private property category. These zoning classifications, (if they are not already identified with their own individual zoning designation), may at the discretion of the Planning and Zoning Department, be permitted (as a conditional use) into their corresponding Private zoning classification. For example, D-1 level Denomination (i.e. Church) would be permitted (as a conditional use) into R-1 Residential (R-1A, R-1B, R-1C, R-1D, R-1E, R-1F, R-1G, R-2, R-3 and R-4) as well as any higher order zoning classification such as M-1, B-1 and C-1. By inclusion, through nested zoning, the D-1 level Denomination is also permitted into all those activities’ high order zoning classifications (M-2, M-3, B-2, B-3, C-2, C-3) and their higher orders (S-1, S-2, F-1, F-2, H-1). Likewise, L-1 level Living Facilities, at the discretion of the Planning and Zoning Staff, may be allowed (as a conditional use) into M-1 zoning classifications and all its higher order zoning classifications (M-2, M-3, C-1, C-2, C-3 S-1, S-2, H-1, F1 and F-2). However, L-1 level Living Facilities would not be allowed in R-1 (Residential) zoning areas or any other “lower order” zoning classification without special permission; usually involving a public hearing and/or most probably a zoning change. It is important to note also that these zoning activities are conditional in that the parcel into which they are being embedded must still meet the minimum requirements at that activity. For example, a Church could not be built on a single family residential lot unless it also met all of the other criteria of its zoning classification of its activity, such as minimum lot size, parking requirements and so forth. Conditional use means just that, upon meeting certain conditions.
On the left side of the chart, in the Public category the (T) Transportation, (E) Educational, (G) Government Facilities and (U) Utilities divisions have “associated” relationships with their counterpart levels under the Private and Social Services categories. These activities by definition are publicly controlled and on publicly owned land. Some of their functions, however, can be accomplished through Private ownership. For example, government administrative offices could be leased space from the private sector or a private firm could be contracted to handle the waste management for the public; but in that case, the Private or Non-Profit zoning classifications would remain as they are. But the level of Public activity or its degree of “social acceptability” would be found only in corresponding levels of the urban hierarchy; that is, Neighborhood, Community, Municipal or Regional levels. Thus, the Simple Zoning hierarchy still protects against a sewage treatment plant being located near single family residences. In addition, neither non-profit Social Services nor Private activities can occur on Public property without, of course, permission from the government.
It is important to note that while the Simple Zoning structure places certain zoning classifications in hierarchical levels (Commercial, Business, Multi-family, etc.) as well as each zoning classification having levels within itself (B-3, B-2, B-1, etc.) it still does prohibit “higher order” zoning classifications from being permitted into “higher level” but “lower order” zoning classifications. For example, F-2 activities would not be permitted in M-3 zoning, nor B-3 activities permitted in C-2 zoning as shown below. Likewise, “lower level” zoning classifications would not be permitted into “lower level” but “higher order” zoning classifications. For example, M-3 would not be permitted into C-2 zoning; see chart below:
Similar restrictions would occur in the Public and Social Service zoning classification hierarchy. Likewise, either associated or conditional uses of zoning classifications would also be prohibited in their lateral “higher order but lower level” relationship as well. For example, O-3 would not be permitted into C-2 zoning and so forth. Thus property values can still be protected while at the same time increasing the opportunity for mixed use.
While the matrix of the twelve zoning classifications is rather straightforward and can be summarized into a single table as shown above, what is actually meant by each zoning classification name, or what is specifically permitted, is slightly more involved. Below is a table labeled “Simple Zoning Classifications” which lists a one line description of each code such as M-1 “Low Density Multi-family”. A more detailed description of each zoning class can be found in Appendix A (available upon request) such as R-1D, Residential with Detached Guest/Servant’s Quarters, followed by either a description and/or examples (such as low density single family residence with permitted accessory use of guest or servant’s quarters either attached or detached, sharing common utilities and not available for rent). Other requirements could be added to these descriptions such as minimum lot size, lot dimensions and setbacks in keeping with the existing zoning classifications or as deemed relevant by the planning and zoning department. However, like the hierarchical zoning system presented, the less restrictions there are described, the better. For example, R-1A Residential would be permitted in R-1C zoning, but it is conditional on the R-1C property also meeting all of R-1A zoning restrictions for it to be permitted. Thus the more restricts placed on a specific zoning, the more unlikely the opportunity for mixed use or for that zoning classification to be placed inside another district. Preferably, all of these types of restrictions could be summarized into simple charts for easier cross-referencing with the goal that many zoning classifications begin to share similar restrictions such as presented in Appendix C.
International Building Code (IBC) and the
North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
The Simple Zoning system has been designed to relate directly to the International Building Code (IBC), North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Municode format. For example, the zoning classifications I-1, I-2 and I-3 (Institutional), H (High-Hazard), F-1 and F-2 (Factory), S1 and S-2 (Storage) correspond directly to the permitted uses as they are described in the IBC. Likewise, the E-1, E-2 and E-3 (Educational) and the B-1, B-2 and B-3 (Business) levels are derived from their corresponding Educational and Business sections in the IBC. The C-1, C-2 and C-3 (Commercial) zoning classifications correlate with both the Mercantile and the various Assembly Groups of the IBC. Even parts of the M-1, M-2 and M-3 (Multi-family), the L-1, L-2 and L-3 (Living Facilities) and the R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-4 (Residential) have their counterparts in the IBC Assembly and Residential Groups. In addition, all the activities listed under each classification, whenever possible, refer to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The primary purpose of relating the zoning classifications and permitted activities to the IBC and the NAICS is to help eliminate possible ambiguities of what activity is permitted and what activity is not permitted within a particular zoning classification. Definitions and terms used by the Simple Zoning system can now refer back to these two well respected authoritative sources and the Municode format.
Simple Zoning Classifications
List of Activities
The next section of the Simple Zoning Hierarchy deals with clear and concise examples of every activity used in the Simple Zoning system. Each use listed has with it its own set of attributes which can vary its zoning classification from a B-1 to a C-3 because of its potential negative attributes such as hazard or traffic generation. Thus, it is important that each activity be clearly identified and defined so that each landowner, landlord, tenant or resident is fully aware of what is permitted and what is not permitted within their zoned parcel. It is here in the Permitted Activities section that activities within each zoning classification are controlled; which will hopefully minimize disputes and unwanted relationships. The list of activities permitted in each zoning classification are based upon the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which replaced the older version of the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes. A complete list of permitted activities in their respected zoning classifications is shown in Appendix B (available upon request).
In the event that permission is being sought for an activity that has not been previously defined, a set of criteria and a methodology shall be used by the Planning and Zoning Department to ascertain to which activity level it best corresponds and thus under which zoning classification it should be placed. Such factors to be considered, but not limited to, are the positive and negative attributes associated with the activity such as hazard, traffic generation, social acceptability, proximity to other activities, noise generation, odors, anticipated density, times of operation, nighttime lighting, security, ecological impact, utility demand, trash generation and so forth. Because of the complexity and inability to anticipate every unforeseen circumstance, the Planning and Zoning Department would have the ultimate authority to determine the new activity’s zoning classification.
Controversial Zoning Classifications
Within any municipality there are always some “controversial” activities that, while permitted by law, are still considered unwanted or undesirable by a large portion of the population. Adult entertainment, drag racing speedways, abortion clinics, landfills, mobile home and trailer parks are often examples of such activities. The governing municipality cannot legally ban these activities but they do have the authority to regulate their location. While these activities can still be easily regulated inside the twelve categories presented, if desired, the Planning and Zoning Department could create specific zoning classifications within any of the twelve divisions that by definition only allow those activities within that zoning classification. Again, this type of restricted zoning is often counterproductive to the idea of nested zoning but it is an option.
Additional Zoning Classifications and Legacy Zoning
If desired, within each division, the Planning and Zoning Department may create even more zoning classifications. For example the Planning and Zoning Department may designate K-1, K-2 and K-3 zoning classifications specifically for various levels of public parking. Or the Planning and Zoning Department may have an existing zoning classification that, for whatever reason, cannot be easily transitioned over to the Simple Zoning system. In that instance the existing zoning could be maintained. Ideally the less stratification there is the better; but from a transitional or political point of view it may be necessary to maintain certain “legacy” zoning classifications in order to smooth the transition from their current zoning system over to Simple Zoning system. These existing zoning classifications could still be placed in the appropriate division (category and level); but listed as a special zoning sub-classification. Basically, the test for determining where such a legacy zoning sub-classification would be is determined by what similar activities or similar characteristics (either positive or negative) they consider to be relatively equal.
PUD’s and Special Districts
The Planning and Zoning Department is still free to identify particular sections of the municipality that need special attention by the creation of “Special Districts” similar the Form Districts described earlier. These districts may have more or even less stringent restrictions than the Simple Zoning; or, they may have special mitigating circumstances warranting their unique sub-classifications. Similarly, Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s) are not precluded from the Simple Zoning system, particularly for the development of mixed uses of mass tracts of undeveloped land (the PUD’s original intent); but, the nested zoning feature of the Simple Zoning system already permits this type of development. In effect, Simple Zoning makes the entire city a PUD. Nevertheless, there may be instances when PUD’s and Special Districts are still needed.
Minimum and Maximum Requirements
Common site and building parameters that are typically scattered throughout each zoning classification can now be reduced a small group of tables whereby all activities and buildings within each zoning classification can be regulated by a set of minimum and maximum requirements. Parameters such as density, building heights, minimum floor areas, parking requirements, building setbacks and landscaping requirements can now be compiled into tables that relate to their urban setting. Example tables are shown in Appendix C (available upon request).
The last section of the Simple Zoning hierarchy system would deal with clear a concise definitions of every term used in the Simple Zoning system. Many of the zoning activities are already well defined in the NAICS; however, there may be other activities or additional clarification needed of those activities in the descriptions. Often in those descriptions there are subjective terms used for which clear definitions are required in order to reduce misunderstandings and ambiguities. For example, what is meant by the terms “low density, odor, excessive traffic or glare” or other similar terms? It is important to quantitatively define these terms. Fortunately, most terms can be based up standard definitions as found in the International Building Code, the NAICS, manufacturers and trade association literature, the Municode, or even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and tailored for use in a zoning activity description. The important point to stress is that once a definition has been adopted, it is now applicable to all activities, all zoning classifications, all levels and all categories. Thus, instead of creating detailed descriptions of unique zoning districts, effort can now be spent on continuously redefining descriptions for zoning classifications, activities and common terms into one set of universal definitions. Suggested definitions used in the Euclidian II Zoning system can be found in Appendix D (available upon request).
Transitioning from Existing Zoning to Simple Zoning
There are two options to transition from a municipality’s existing zoning classification system to the Simple Zoning system. One way is a clean break; that is, in one move rename all the existing zoning classifications with their new Euclidean II counterpart. There may be a few “legacy” zoning classifications, but basically the old system is abandoned. While ideal, there would obviously be objectionable from “concerned citizens” who automatically resist change even when the change is for their own betterment. The second option is let the two systems exist side-by-side for a reasonable period of time and gradually transition to the Simple Zoning system of classification. While this may take longer it would be less objectionable and thus probably be more politically acceptable.
The Planning and Zoning Department’s Perspective
Obviously, from a planning point of view, who better to objectively serve the municipality than the trained individuals of the governing Planning and Zoning Department? Unfortunately, the majority of their effort is often spent trying to interpret and implement a cumbersome set of zoning ordinances or is spent in the creation of new “districts” intended to placate “concerned citizens” who want to improve the community, or at least protect their turf. The Planning and Zoning Staff, perhaps more than anyone else, would welcome a simple, straightforward set of zoning classifications that anyone could quickly interpret and understand and whose definitions have been determined by other authoritative agencies. Furthermore, the Staff would probably appreciate the opportunities afforded by the nested zoning concept to encourage not only mixed use development but also allow properties to be developed for something for which they are currently not zoned; that is, to obtain their highest and best use. Like anyone else, the Planning and Zoning personnel do not like to see vacant lots, abandoned buildings and blighted areas. They, along with developers, would rather see vacant industrial land being used for housing or farming and generating revenue as opposed to setting fallow because no one has yet found an industrial use for the land. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Department personnel, as representatives of their public office, have a responsibility to the public to see that important social services, from low income housing to museums to teen counseling centers, are either easily accessible to the public or evenly distributed throughout the municipality for the benefit of all people. The goal of the Simple Zoning classification system is to provide the Planning and Zoning Departments a simple tool to actually plan zoning. Potentially, with this simple zoning instrument, the Planning and Zoning Department can more effectively control urban growth and foster a more varied and secure urban environment for all of its inhabitants.
The proposed Simple Zoning classification stratifies and nests different zoning classifications in hierarchical order which simplifies zoning and provides opportunities for mixed use while still protecting property values. It accomplishes this through a four by three matrix of social levels (Neighborhood, Community, Municipality and Regional) crossed with the functional categories (Public, Private and non-profit Social Services). The resulting twelve (12) divisions and their respective grouped zoning classifications within help provide a consistent framework of hierarchical and nested zoning classifications. Thus, a single set of activities permitted for each zoning classification is now not only permitted in its own zoning classification but also for all other zoning classifications or which it is a subset. Similarly, only one set of definitions is now needed to describe those various activities. Categories, levels, activities and definitions are based upon the International Building Code, the North American Industry Classification System, the Municode and other commonly used manufacturers and trade association definitions. The definitions can be altered, if necessary, to be in compliance with the municipality’s Comprehensive Plan. The Simple Zoning system is robust enough to encompass almost any conceivable zoning activity yet flexible enough to still permit legacy zoning districts, special zoning districts or planned unit developments. It has been designed to be similar to existing zoning classifications in order to facilitate the lateral transition of a municipality’s existing zoning classification system to the Simple Zoning system. Simple Zoning’s ultimate goal is, through more efficient and concentrated development help with the global problem of sustainability through planning.
Appendices are available upon request. If you are interested in learning more about Simple Zoning, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or 321-698-5739.
Simple Zoning is a proposed enhancing of traditional zoning classifications that offers the advantages of both simplicity and flexibility – particularly with regard to promoting friendly mixed uses while still protecting property values. If implemented, this will not only encourage more mixed use, more responsible growth and help encourage development; it should also help reduce urban sprawl and its side effect: vehicular traffic and energy consumption; in effect, helping to foster sustainability through planning