Zoning Practice — September 2006

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by S. Mark White, who authored the August 2006 Zoning Practice article "Development Codes for Built Out Communities."

Question from Tim Schwecke, AICP:

In your article you mention the importance of doing a calibration study as part of a code update process. Could you elaborate on how one is done? What is involved? Are there any examples that you could share?

Answer from author Mark White:

A calibration study would involve an analysis of the existing and desired physical parameters that you would like the code to address. These parameters may include setback, height, massing, street cross-sections, parking location and design, fenestration, yards, signage, or other parameters that are of concern or interest. The studies can involve:

  • actual minimum, maximum and average parameters;
  • photographs of typical, undesirable and desirable situations;
  • plan review or orthographic renderings of undesirable or desirable situations;
  • case studies of projects that reflect one or more of the physical parameters under consideration;
  • analysis and conclusions about what makes these elements desirable or undesirable; and
  • implications for the development code.

There are few examples of documents entitled a "calibration study," so I was using the term in a generic sense. There are numerous examples of comprehensive, area, corridor and neighborhood plans that discuss the physical form of existing neighborhoods and that include specific guidance for code modifications. Examples in communities I have worked with include the Central Avenue plan in St. Petersburg, Florida; the Downtown and EDO plans in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Neighborhood Conservation districts in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and the Carroll Creek Overlay District in Frederick, Maryland (www.cityoffrederick.com/carrollcreek/). You might want to review the Nashville, Tennessee, Urban Design Overlay districts, which are based on design studies for specific neighborhoods or areas (www.nashville.org/mpc/urban.htm).

Question from Lee C. Ward, Senior Planner, McGill Smith Punshon:

Are there zoning text regulating samples in your book for old business district signs, landscaping, stormwater, architectural style, and infill development?

Answer from author Mark White:

By "book" I assume you mean the article. The article discusses regulations in St. Petersburg, Florida; Boulder, Colorado; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Other built-out communities that have recently updated their land-use regulations include Frederick, Maryland; Roanoke, Virginia; and Nashua, New Hampshire. On the specific types of regulations you mention, I offer the following:

Old Business District signs: You should check out communities that have significant experience with administering historic district regulations. Charleston, South Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; and Annapolis, Maryland come to mind. Albuquerque's downtown and EDO sector plans prepared by Stephanos Polyzoides also contain very succinct and content-neutral sign regulations.

Landscaping: Prince George's County, Maryland, has a detailed landscaping manual that I believe addresses urban situations. Regulations in Concord, North Carolina, and San Antonio, Texas, address the modification of buffer requirements for urban development situations such as traditional neighborhood developments.

Stormwater: The regulations in St. Petersburg, Nashua, and Chapel Hill address stormwater in urban situations. Chapel Hill in particular made stormwater management a priority in its code update.

Architectural Style: The St. Petersburg code contains a section that is specific to architectural style.

Infill Development: The state of Maryland has a model infill development ordinance, and the San Antonio Unified Development Code contains an infill overlay zone that has worked quite well.

Hope this helps.