Zoning Practice — July 2005

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Arthur Ientilucci, AICP, author of the July 2005 Zoning Practice article "Monitoring and Evaluating a Zoning Code."

Question from James Finger:

How do we regulate or safeguard the public in a rapidly changing culture? Twenty-five years ago, Planners and zoning regulations focused on segregating uses in different zones. With the advent of computers, decentralization of the workplace, work-at-home environments, footloose industry leaving the country, and the abandonment of employees to fend for themselves for retirement planning and health care protection, individuals and families are faced with doing everything from home — multi-tasking and being self-reliant.

Moreover, with the rising cost of living and the limited tax base, governments are forced to do more with fewer resources. Like the police, planners and zoning officers are faced with the fact that they can't chase after every zoning violation; they have to find new ways of trying to manage the chaos. For example, zoning regulations typically do not allow chickens, and especially roosters or other "exotic pets" (snakes)in the city. Yet with a growing non-European population, many communities find that some immigrant populations consider chickens and roosters pets, and also that they are mystified by the strange rules. What rules should we employ to safeguard the public and yet allow for the changing needs and desires of a new culture?

Another example of changing values is that immigrants find it difficult to survive in America because of the high cost of living. Here, the car is a means to self-sufficiency, independence, and freedom. Many low-income families and individuals find themselves in the "business" of acquiring numerous old or junk cars to make one whole car, which becomes a means of support for the family. The regulator's frustration (and the neighbors) is that the zoning regulations typically do not allow auto repair operations as a home occupation in a residential area, as this type of use can be a disturbance to neighbors and a blight on the neighborhood — in addition to the fact that it usually requires a special license.

Another problem occurring with immigrant populations relates to congested and dilapidated housing. As is likely the case across America, the rising cost of housing and the influx of a mixed cultural population, a community may find over-utilization of property and the existing housing along with a number of other attendant disturbances to what had once been a quiet neighborhood. These problems are typically related to maintenance of the property or permits for increasing the number of dwelling units unless the occupants are all part of the same family which zoning typically exempts.

Now many communities may be faced with an inability to fulfill the promises that the zoning regulations outline. Where do we go from here?

Answer from author Arthur Ientilucci, AICP

James, the changes that have occurred in society and technology since the inception of zoning regulations have, as we all know, been monumental. The rate of change is faster than ever, and hence, the need to be flexible with land-use regulation and to be continually attuned to what's happening in the municipality, the region, the state, on the national scene, and worldwide as well. In doing so, hopefully the way we regulate land will not be the victim of false promises but accommodating of growing opportunities and realistic as well.

Question from Joseph W. McManus AICP, Zoning Consultant, Miami-Dade County Department of Planning & Zoning

This is a paperwork question. Our zoning code rewrite project, if adopted, will introduce a matrix of uses permitted in zoning districts. The zoning districts will be arrayed in a horizontal row across the top of the page. Uses will be listed in the left-hand column and symbols and [endnotes] in the body of the matrix will indicate "permitted" etc.

My question is: What is the paperwork in amending a page? For example, if I want to add a new use(new row) to the page, by ordinance, do I have to reprint the entire page--showing the added row, say, in bold? What has been your experience?

Answer from author Arthur Ientilucci, AICP

Joe, that is exactly the way I have done it. Usually the chart is a free-standing section of the code and the section is reprinted with the changes. At the beginning or end of the section is a notation (example- Amended 6-17-2005 by Ordinance,No. 2005-180).