Minimizing Reliance on Discretionary Approvals

Zoning Practice — April 2016

By Lane Kendig


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Why is minimizing the reliance on discretionary approvals a critical goal in ordinance writing? The primary reasons are that discretionary approvals are time-consuming and costly, and discretionary review processes often culminate in uncertain, inconsistent, and unpredictable decisions.

Elected officials want zoning to achieve specific goals. Citizens want to know what can happen next to their home. Developers want to read the zoning code and prepare a plan that meets the standards and can be approved. Discretionary approvals fail all these desires, and it stands to reason that a failed zoning tool should be abandoned.

This issue of Zoning Practice explains how communities can use existing zoning tools to minimize reliance on discretionary approvals. It explains how discretionary approvals came to be widespread in zoning codes before unpacking specific alternatives to variances, conditional use approvals, and discretionary planned unit development (PUD) processes.


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2016
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Lane Kendig
Lane Kendig is the founder of Kendig Keast Collaborative a national planning firm. Prior to that he worked in Bucks County, PA and was county planning director in Lake County, IL. He has practiced planning for over 45 years across the United States working for large and small cities, counties, and developers. He is the author of “Performance Zoning” (APA 1980) and the Island Press books “Community Character” and “Planning with Community Character” 2010. He has authored three PAS reports for APA, as well as writing numerous articles. He is an expert in comprehensive planning, land use regulations, and environmental protection. Mr. Kendig has not only written plans and codes, but reviewed thousands of site plans and designed developments ranging from small residential to super regional shopping centers.