Creating Design Guidelines That Work

Zoning Practice — March 2011

By Douglas Hammel, AICP


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Creating interesting urban places is not easy. The local planner faces so many challenges — establishing the vision, aligning development policies, leveraging the market for investment, assessing the municipal role in implementation, administering the zoning and development review process — that any bump in the road can result in an unbuilt project, or just as bad, a built project that compromises the goals of the town for the next half-century.

One tool municipalities use to shape investment is design guidelines. Well-crafted design guidelines can streamline the development process by providing clear expectations that remove arbitrary decision making and interpretation.

This issue of Zoning Practice sets forth some fundamental principles to follow while developing design guidelines. It poses a series of key questions to be asked prior to the development of design guidelines that aim to proactively address common pain points.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2011
Adobe PDF
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.