Zoning options for a peaceful community

Source: fanpop.com

In the third post of this series about creating a peaceful community, the following are suggested improvements to a zoning ordinance. In using the term “peaceful,” I am not referring to “quiet,” but instead to “harmonious.” Additions or suggestions are most welcome.   

  • Toss the strict Euclidean-styled zoning ordinances aside, as they can perpetuate past exclusionary tactics. 
  • Consider re-writing the ordinance to be more readable and user friendly so that most anyone can understand the document as well as staff. Too often we get hung up on “planner-speak” or “legalese” and lose sight of for whom the regulations are intended. Clearly articulating the code would also reduce confusion, ambiguity, differing interpretations, and the need for formal interpretations by the Zoning Board of Appeals. 
  • Add more charts, graphics, and drawings to help explain technical details in the code. 
  • Mixed use districts and form-based codes offer more opportunities for innovative and inclusive land uses and design. 
  • Be sure that your zoning district names accurately reflect the intent, purpose, and uses of the zoning district. Misleading and/or inaccurate titles can cause unnecessary confusion and discord. 
  • Seek feedback from the public at regular intervals regarding how the code can be improved through an ogoing series of community or neighborhood forums. 
  • Don’t assume that one size (or standard) fits all. 
  • Allow accessory dwelling units (granny flats, etc.) and tiny houses – these enhance the options for creating affordable housing and designed/situated properly can curb sprawl.  
  • Density is NOT a dirty word – it is a useful planning tool for assuring a healthy commercial and residential core and goes a long way towards reducing sprawl. 
  • Provide adequate areas and options for workforce housing options – this is critical to assuring all demographics are properly served.
  • Economic, social, or demographic status must never influence a zoning decision.
  • Good ideas never die – successful past development designs should be re-employed, such as bungalow courts, grid street patterns, garden apartments, converted carriage houses, live-work housing, and duplexes.      
  • Include bicycle racks and bus stop shelters as development requirements to assure a multi-modal transportation network serving all residents. 
  • One can never have enough parks, common areas, and open space – protect these for the long-term by zoning them accordingly so they cannot be bought and sold like commodities. Everyone deserves easy access to such areas. 
  • Whenever possible and practical, acquire and zone shorelines and stream corridors as public – these will become your interconnecting ribbons of green. 
  • Don’t price application fees so high that only the privileged have opportunities to come before boards and commissions with formal requests. 
  • Maintain office hours that are  citizen and employee friendly. Banker’s hours are for bankers. 
  • Be sure your planning commission and zoning board of appeals fully reflect the demographics of your community and are NOT just another “good ‘ol boys club.”
  • Always, ALWAYS interpret and enforce your code fairly, consistently, and equitably.
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2 Responses to Zoning options for a peaceful community

  1. Motorvilleboy says:

    If you covered this elsewhere, sorry for the duplicate. I would also suggest watching your language. While you’re talking about accessory and other kinds of dwelling units, keep in mind that different kinds of households will occupy them, not just traditional families. Terms like “single-family” are becoming obsolete as we transition toward all kinds of other household arrangements.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Sylvester says:

    Although, I really like and admire the “peaceful community” idea…. I think it has “it’s place” in the community. The practicality of way finding should be a universal design in the form of “Infographics”. Our nation is changing, as our demographics are constantly changing. Years ago and still today, in many parts of the country English is the native language spoken. Our country is unique because of the diversity of its people and the languages.
    Although the following scenario is extreme it does illustrate my point.
    Suppose we were to have a public health emergency in the county I live in. The government would have to alert 1.9 million people. To accomplish this the message would be required to be in 3 different languages (based on the current demographics). Additionally, the message would go through all mediums of communication (Radio, Television, Social media, Billboards etc…). As far as strategies on way finding, infographics seems a logical choice – even the youngest of children can understand.
    Also, on the topic of generalized communication, as a resident I should receive from the community government a newsletter (whether it is electronic or quarterly) updates and deadlines to the comprehensive master plan. This would include:
    Community vision – recommendations for future development, roads, utilities, parks and community facilities
    • Local policies, goals, and objectives for future growth
    • Strategies for farmland, forest, and natural area preservation
    • Strategies for job and tax base growth
    • Maps, graphics and text describing existing and future land uses as decided by each local community
    • An action plan (implementation strategy) to guide the community towards making the vision a reality
    • Provisions to monitor progress of the plan.

    Physical Landscape Geology, Topography, Hydrology, Critical Areas, Wetlands
    Social Elements Housing, Demographics, Recreational Facilities
    Economic Systems Transportation, Historic/Industrial/Business Districts, Neighborhoods, Infrastructure


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