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Revised Zoning Ordinances - Discussion

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I wanted to make sure people on here were aware of Buffalo's proposed Green Code.  I also thought it might warrant discussion as to how some of their changes could be adopted by Charmeck to improve the direction of development in our area.  Here are a couple of helpful links for those that are not familiar with it.  I felt like this was relevant to a number of threads, but I did not see a particular thread on point.  If there is one, my apologies and please move to the appropriate location.

 

http://www.buffalogreencode.com/

 

http://www.sustainablecitynetwork.com/topic_channels/policy/article_4b54eade-b822-11e2-a6b0-001a4bcf6878.html

 

One of the things that initial drew me to look into this proposal was a quote similar to the following one found in the second link:  

 

One of the controversial aspects of the new code is a proposal to eliminate all minimum parking requirements. If approved, Buffalo will be one of the first large cities in the country to do so.

 

I thought something like this might be particularly beneficial in a neighborhood like Plaza-Midwood as it would presumably drive density while simultaneously increasing support for the Gold Line.  Effectively, we are no longer protecting the market for cars but allowing developers to assess a particular market and provide the parking density they feel is adequate for their project.  The more I think about this, what is the government's rationale for regulating parking requirements?

 

Not being in development, I am very curious to hear more thoughts about this and other aspects of this code.

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I have often wondered why they require parking.  I am sure there is an accurate historic reason however this is my assumption:  When parking is not provided, people tend to park on nearby streets and on nearby private property.  I would assume, that the zoning is in place to avoid a perceived public nuisance, which might be something like.... having Harris Teeter Shoppers park in your yard and leave their shopping cart in your driveway because there was not enought parking in front of the store and no cart corral within 25 feet of their parking spot.

Edited by archiham04

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I have asked five or six local developers about their willingness to build multifamily residential without parking along the LRT. Each one said they would be totally willing to build a project without parking _if_ they could sell units for significantly less than competitors who had parking. 

 

I have also asked lots of people in Charlotte if they would live somewhere that did not have parking -- everyone said 'No'.

 

 

 When parking in not provided, people tend to park on nearby streets and on nearby private property.

 

This could be rectified via enforcement (that would be much cheaper than building parking)

Edited by kermit

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I have often wondered why they require parking.  I am sure there is an accurate historic reason however this is my assumption:  When parking in not provided, people tend to park on nearby streets and on nearby private property.  I would assume, that the zoning is in place to avoid a perceived public nuisance, which might be something like.... having Harris Teeter Shoppers park in your yard and leave their shopping cart in your driveway because there was not enought parking in front of the store and no cart corral within 25 feet of their parking spot.

 

Or, more recently, people bury your neighborhood to go shopping at the new outlet mall nearby. 

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I thought something like this might be particularly beneficial in a neighborhood like Plaza-Midwood as it would presumably drive density while simultaneously increasing support for the Gold Line.  Effectively, we are no longer protecting the market for cars but allowing developers to assess a particular market and provide the parking density they feel is adequate for their project.  The more I think about this, what is the government's rationale for regulating parking requirements?

 

Funny you mention Plaza-Midwood, which I think offers a perfect case study in how quickly civilization can collapse when a single business opens with fewer parking spaces than required.  

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When Catalyst was orignially built, parking was separated from the residential units, not only being not directly below the building, but also bought and paid for separately from the living space.  The parking if used was not deeded to the property, but charged separately as part of the HOA (if it would have been condo).  At the time, 2007 ish, it was considered a shocking idea.

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Funny you mention Plaza-Midwood, which I think offers a perfect case study in how quickly civilization can collapse when a single business opens with fewer parking spaces than required.  

 

While I do find it a pain in the butt to park in PM, it's not quite enough of a pain for me to take the bus.  Though if the buses were more predictable I might!  

 

Is something like this not the cure to the much despised Hatcher surface lot?  By requiring numerous small businesses to create or reserve a small amount of parking for each location, we are creating a disincentive for a parking deck.  If we eliminated hundreds of parking spaces 5-12 at a time (think of infill between Pizza Peel and Wells Fargo, a bigger patio at Legion Brewing instead of a surface lot), then a parking deck becomes economically possible.  Also, think of the burden we place on small businesses that want to convert a building from a retail use to a restaurant use.  I can guarantee you this is why the two buildings next two Legion Brewing are going to be sacrificed for a parking lot. I seriously doubt the owners want to spend the money on that parking lot, particularly to the zoning requirements which are often in excess of what is frequently needed.  Not to mention, now we get several more linear feet of surface parking on Commonwealth rather than another building or small business.  I am not sure I would suggest elimination of parking requirements, certainly not throughout Charlotte.  However, a reduction in certain areas, particularly those served by mass transit could be warranted.

 

I did not mean for this be solely about PM or about the parking lot aspects of this code.  However, the city wants to promote density, reduced traffic and clean initiatives via mass transit.  I think they should look at their current code to see what they are actually providing incentives for.

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Well in the interest of steering a bit away from PM and toward a more broad discussion on revised codes...  there is a very current (funded) initiative to re-write the Charlotte City Zoning Ordinance.  Several groups have been scheduling speakers recently in advance of this. Many speaking about form-based code.

Edited by archiham04

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I was at a forum a month or two ago at UNCC Uptown that included speakers from Denver about their transition to form-based code. Was very informative and eye-opening. Ultimately it's something I'd love to see, but it will take a lot of work to convince all parties to be okay with it. Neighborhood groups would loose power to "micro-manage" projects, but in theory the new code would reflect what neighborhood groups want to see anyway. 

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^Right, fewer public hearings for rezoning cases (once the code is adopted), but better resulting infill development patterns.

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^Right, fewer public hearings for rezoning cases (once the code is adopted), but better resulting infill development patterns.

 

i.e a win-win?

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Exactly. I don't recall the statistics exactly, but I believe Denver's rezoning requests fell by more than half before-and-after form based code went into effect.

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Dug around and found the presentation files and summary of the event in November. http://rebiccharlotte.com/2014/12/01/piedmont-public-policy-institute-and-unc-charlotte-release-research-paper-on-form-based-zoning/

 

Interestingly, David Walters held Cresent Dilworth up as a solid example of what form-based zoning would do: http://www.southernapartmentgroup.com/projects.html

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Exactly. I don't recall the statistics exactly, but I believe Denver's rezoning requests fell by more than half before-and-after form based code went into effect.

 

Actually even better according to your link!  Quote:   Robb [Denver, CO City Councilwoman] pointed out that, since adopting the new code, the City of Denver has seen its rezoning applications decline from nearly 200 a year to around 30.

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Hello, layman here.  Can someone give me a TLDR on "Form-based code" zoning.  Explain it to me like I'm 5 please.

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I have often wondered why they require parking.  I am sure there is an accurate historic reason however this is my assumption:  When parking is not provided, people tend to park on nearby streets and on nearby private property.  I would assume, that the zoning is in place to avoid a perceived public nuisance, which might be something like.... having Harris Teeter Shoppers park in your yard and leave their shopping cart in your driveway because there was not enought parking in front of the store and no cart corral within 25 feet of their parking spot.

 

Historically speaking, most places that were developed prior to the 1930s did not have parking. While Wold War II is generally considered the demarcation point for the start of the auto-oriented era, cities were already headed in that direction before the war. Euclidean zoning was established as a constitutional regulatory police power in 1926. As cars become more common and more cities adopted zoning ordinances, one of the 'progressive' ideas of the day was to require parking.

 

I think that context is important. We take excess parking for granted now, but there was a time where lack of parking was a major issue.

 

 

I was at a forum a month or two ago at UNCC Uptown that included speakers from Denver about their transition to form-based code. Was very informative and eye-opening. Ultimately it's something I'd love to see, but it will take a lot of work to convince all parties to be okay with it. Neighborhood groups would loose power to "micro-manage" projects, but in theory the new code would reflect what neighborhood groups want to see anyway. 

 

It's a no-brainer that not having to build parking would help every developer's pro forma, but it doesn't make sense to force them to do something that the private sector can't sell. Government's role here should be to allow the private sector regulatory flexibility to do projects that make sense based on the market.

 

I think that some parking is ok. The reality is that Charlotte is a city built mostly in the era of cars, and it is impractical to do away with parking altogether (from a regulatory standpoint). What the City needs to do is adopt parking MAXIMUMS that would be applied in specific areas like transit station areas, uptown, and "activity centers" as defined by the Centers Corridors and Wedges Growth Strategy. Parking maximums would allow the private sector flexibility to build parking as the market demands (without going overboard) and help the transition away from a car-first development mentality.

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Hello, layman here.  Can someone give me a TLDR on "Form-based code" zoning.  Explain it to me like I'm 5 please.

 

Form-based codes are similar to zoning, but the uses of buildings are regulated through the shape and layout of the building itself. Typically, the rezoning process gets stuck on the layout and design of the building - and rarely does the proposed land use become an issue. The opposite of this is the "Euclidean" zoning model, which separates land uses into individual categories that are each dealt with on their own. These codes are typically easier for developers to navigate, and easier for laymen to understand too, because it relies on illustrations to explain ideas that are difficult to write out in paragraph form. The core idea is that the specific use  of a building isn't as important as the design and shape of the building on its parcel. 

 

What we talk about on UP all the time is how we want buildings with a good street front and retail on the ground floor. It doesn't matter what is up top (ie: condos or office) so long as it looks good and fits in with it's surroundings. 

 

As an example, my hometown of Spartanburg adopted a form-based code for its downtown area. Just skim through it and you'll see how easy it is to understand the process and what the city wants.

 

http://www.downtowndevelopment.com/pdf/SpartanburgCodeadopted2-28-11.pdf

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So our current, building-use based code reads something like:

If you're zoned X, you can have these kinds of buildings: (Residential, gas stations, offices, crematories, etc)

You must maintain ## distance setbacks on these sides of your property, and your building can't be any larger than half the size of your lot (.5 FAR)

 

Form-based code would be more like this:

If you're zoned X, your building has to look kind of like this: height no more than twice the width of the street, and from ground level to 20' up, 60% glazing, this much open area is required, etc. Also we don't care what's in the building, but no livestock, please.

 

Charlotte (as with many cities these days), has zoning code that's sort of in the middle, especially for "newer" zoning types like MUD and TOD. In Uptown, for example, there are requirements in place for street level activity and open spaces. That's form-based philosophy.

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Sort of a case-in-point: Along Central Ave in Plaza-Midwood, the dominant zoning is still "B-2." So Walgreens could build on a corner without any special zoning permission. A big mixed-use project like the ones we love would have to go through rezoning, even if the bottom floor was a very urban walgreens. 

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Awesome.  This entire conversation makes more sense to me now.  Thanks!

Edited by ah59396
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Sort of a case-in-point: Along Central Ave in Plaza-Midwood, the dominant zoning is still "B-2." So Walgreens could build on a corner without any special zoning permission. A big mixed-use project like the ones we love would have to go through rezoning, even if the bottom floor was a very urban walgreens. 

 

Exactly. We all know that the city wants to steer more density towards certain areas (ie: South End). Why not make it simple for developers who want to do the right thing? It makes it much easier for developers to do higher quality projects (and I don't mean upscale - you can have good design at a low price point too), and makes developers that want to build crappy projects go through more hoops. 

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Amazing that Waynesville, NC can have form-based codes, but we big city types have to study something to death before it can occur.  Is Daniel Levine in charge of this here in Charlotte?

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Here's the Waynesville example I like to use:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Waynesville,[email protected],-82.990941,3a,51.1y,181.19h,87.21t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sEIBoVBpC_wUpH6r7uTxSnw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x88597110e8f7808d:0x93fa2173ebffebea

The code says you have to build to the street.  It doesn't say "you can't have a drive through lane go across the front of your site".  So what Mickey D's did was build to the street and put a tunnel through the building.  If you want to see more, explore this street.

https:[email protected],-82.986562,3a,48.2y,11.66h,83.92t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sP-NuVHSm7753un00esRu0A!2e0

https:[email protected],-82.990485,3a,75y,185.36h,89.48t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sFrTKunEhRnF6r-BYgdUNBA!2e0

Edited by archiham04

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^ I was really excited about this form-based zoning idea.  But then I looked at those street-views.  

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There already exists a building like this in Charlotte, the Bank of the Ozarks on Park Rd at Heather Lane just north of Woodlawn Rd.

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