Effective Zoning Methods for Implementing Plans

Zoning Practice — August 2015

By Douglas Hammel, AICP


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From the beginning of our technical training, planners are taught to 'make no little plans.' We help communities think big about their futures, and we strive to create plans that capture best practices and reflect a community's vision and aspirations. But how do we get from those big ideas to good development on the ground?

Communities often begin zoning by asking the wrong questions. Sometimes, they focus immediately on the minutia like "What should our front setbacks be?" or "What kind of brick should we require?" In other instances, they ask "What kind of zoning do we need — Euclidean, form-based, performance-based, or hybrid?" These overlook the most fundamental zoning question: "What do we need our zoning to do in order to get us from what we have now to what we want to be?"

This issue of Zoning Practice introduces several considerations that can help planners bridge the gap between community vision and the realized built environment. It identifies the best ways to amend or replace a zoning ordinance through calibration, modernization, and transformation.


Page Count
Date Published
Aug. 1, 2015
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Douglas Hammel, AICP
Doug Hammel, AICP, has almost 20 years of professional experience in urban design, land use planning, zoning, architectural design, and transportation planning. He has worked as a consultant on projects throughout the United States, and has recently transitioned to a municipal role as Development Manager for the Village of Lincolnwood, Illinois, a community of 13,000 residents immediately north of the City of Chicago. Doug has an educational background in architecture and urban planning, and has assisted communities in the areas of comprehensive planning, subarea planning, zoning and design guidelines, code enforcement, and building review. Early in his career, he enjoyed helping communities “think big”, while his new venture into municipal planning is helping him understand and tackle the challenges of on-the-ground implementation of plans.