Zoning Practice — July 2007

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Daniel R. Mandelker, author of the June 2007 Zoning Practice article "Planned Unit Developments and Master Planned Communities: Review and Approval Processes."

Question from Steven Pumphrey, Planning Coordinator and Assistant Vice President, Volkert & Associates Inc.:

To me a PUD is basically a site specific zoning map and ordinance which sets development standards in place for the future development of that site. This is just a site-specific version of a citywide zoning map and ordinance. Why then is it necessary to require so much detail for a PUD (lot layouts, building locations, streets, parking, etc.) as opposed to a bubble plan that specifies the location and type of uses with corresponding documentation specifying the details for each area (density, setbacks, building heights, etc.)? The review process can be quite lengthy with preapplication review, preliminary review by the Planning Commission and City Council, and final review again by the Planning Commission and City Council. Given that any subdivision within the PUD goes to the Planning Commission for preliminary and final plat approval and any site plans within the PUD get Planning Commission and City Council approval, why not just a Planning Commission and City Council approval of a PUD Master Plan?

Answer from author Daniel Mandelker:

What you describe as a bubble plan is not really a bubble plan but a development plan, so it contains enough detail. Take a look at the bubble plan examples in the report. If you still think this kind of broad concept plan is enough to guide a development, let me know.

Question from Steven Pumphrey, Planning Coordinator and Assistant Vice President, Volkert & Associates Inc.:

I read this article on APA interact and did not see any bubble plan examples. Regardless, my point is that the supporting documentation (not the bubble plan itself) details what the design standards would be for the different areas within the PUD, just as the city's zoning ordinance details what the design standards are for each zoning district within the city. I am not trying to oversimplify the PUD process but it appears to me that many municipalities are over-complicating it.

Answer from author Daniel Mandelker:

Sorry, the bubble plan examples are in the PAS Report. What you continue to describe, however, is a detailed development plan, not a bubble plan.

Question from Monica C. Drewniany, AICP, Director of Community Planning, Natural Lands Trust

Do you have a database that lists how many communities in Pennsylvania have PUDs?

Answer from author Daniel Mandelker:

Sorry. You might try the state municipal league.

Question from Jan Fees, City of Edmond, Oklahoma:

Our community has recently changed our zoning ordinance to have PUDs as a stand-alone base district rather than an overlay district. So now PUDs are their own self-described districts. Our new zoning ordinance does not allow cell towers in single-family zoning districts. In order to go around this requirement, an attorney for T-Mobile is filing a rezoning from "A" Single Family Dwelling District to PUD with the sole use being a cell tower. This does not appear to be what PUDs are for but rather just a way to circumvent our zoning ordinance, which prohibits cell towers in residential zones. What are your thoughts in a case like this?

Answer from author Daniel Mandelker:

The way to handle this is through the list of permitted uses in PUD districts. I didn't think of this when I did the report, but I don't see why the ordinance can't prohibit single-use, stand-alone structures, such as cell towers and billboards, as the sole use in PUD districts. It may be too late to do this now, though I don't see how the applicant has obtained vested rights. I assume a cell tower as a single use is permitted under the PUD district as it now stands.