Memphis-Shelby County, TN, Unified Development Code

Updated October 2020

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Table of Contents

Outdoor Lighting

The metro government addresses outdoor lighting in the general development standards section of its unified development code (§4.7). The purpose statement references IES standards and calls for design that minimizes adverse lighting impacts and light pollution.

The code lists exemptions from regulations. It offers design requirements for new lighting, existing lighting, and special use administrative deviation uses (high-intensity special-purpose lighting and complex or nonconforming uses). New lighting must conform to either “prescriptive” or “performance” regulations, and outdoor lighting plans are required. The code provides tables of maximum allowable lighting levels for different uses, and establishes three lighting zones for low, moderate, and moderately high ambient lighting. 

Urban Agriculture

The city’s zoning code addresses urban agriculture. It allows neighborhood gardens as an open space-agricultural principal use by right in all districts except parks and open space (Table 2.5). Neighborhood gardens are also permitted in all the city’s special purpose districts (§7.3.11) and in the university district overlay (§8.3.11) and midtown district overlay (§8.4.7).

The code provides standards for neighborhood gardens that prohibit on-site sales in residential districts (except for community-supported agriculture) and address maintenance, fencing, lighting, and accessory structures (§2.6.5.E). 

The code defines neighborhood garden (§12.3.1).

Urban Livestock

The city/county's unified development ordinance addresses chicken keeping as an accessory use for single-family principal structures (§2.7.11). The ordinance establishes a minimum lot size of 5,000 SF and allows 1 chicken per 1,500 SF, up to a maximum of 6 chickens. Standards address enclosures, setbacks, feed storage, and sanitation/waste management. Roosters are prohibited.

The code also addresses beekeeping as an accessory use on single-family detached lots of at least 10,000 SF and in neighborhood gardens of at least 5,000 SF (§2.7.12).

Zoning Reform and Code Writing

The city and county adopted a new unified development code in 2010. It includes a mix of use-based and form-based zoning standards. It defines and regulates uses based on broad categories, with select specific use types, and includes use-specific standards to minimize reliance on discretionary use permits. It is richly illustrated and uses tables to organize use permissions and dimensional standards.

Its intent statements address guiding growth and development in the city and county; implementing the county’s comprehensive plan; protecting the character and stability of the city and county; prohibiting incompatible development; establishing procedures to implement and enforce code provisions; guiding the provision of adequate and efficient public facilities; considering the availability and sufficiency of public facilities; encouraging the wise use and management of natural resources; encouraging compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; ensuring that development is properly related to its site and to surrounding development patterns (§1.5).

Memphis, TN

2010 Population: 646,889

2010 Population Density: 2,053.26/square mile

Shelby, TN

2010 Population: 927,644

2010 Population Density: 1,215.51/square mile