Controlling Strip Development with Design Guidelines

Zoning Practice — November 2011

By Ross Moldoff, Sarah Korjeff


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Design guidelines are a relatively new tool for controlling the appearance of development. Many communities have regulations for the architectural design of retail or big box buildings, along with requirements for landscaping, signage, lighting, and other similar topics. Design guidelines take these regulations a step further by focusing on illustrations and photographs to clarify what the desired type of development looks like.

Pictures eliminate much of the guesswork about what a regulation means. A visual depiction of a regulation is much easier for staff, planning board members, and applicants to understand. The great benefit of design guidelines is to allow all parties involved in the preparation or review of a development proposal to see what is required or preferred with photographs and illustrations, thereby reducing wrong interpretations that can lead to costly delays in the approval process.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses how Salem, New Hampshire, and the Cape Cod Commission have used design guidelines to improve the quality of development along commercial strips.


Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2011
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Ross Moldoff
Ross Moldoff, AICP, has been the Planning Director for the Town of Salem, New Hampshire (pop. 30,000), for 34 years, where he provides staff support for the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Conservation Commission. He has extensive experience in subdivision and site plan permitting as well as writing land use regulations. He has taught courses for the University of New Hampshire Continuing Education Program and made presentations at NH, NNECAPA, and national conferences, seminars, and webinars. Ross received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Environmental Studies from Colby College and a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts.

Sarah Korjeff