Google 3D mapping provides urban planning possibilities
Google’s Advanced Technology And Projects (ATAP) program called Project Tango now has a new mobile device that tracks 3D motion and maps user environments. The current prototype is a 5” phone that tracks the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the surrounding environment. The end result is a 3D model of the space around you.
According to Google’s web site for this project, here are some of the possibilities:
What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? What if directions to a new location didn’t stop at the street address? What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building? What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?
For planners, a trip to a benchmark development – e.g., successful downtown, new sports stadium, etc. – would result in a 3D model that could be shared with others. The magic of the place could then be more effectively understood by people that have never been there. The possibilities for application across multiple platforms are endless.
Here is a link to the Google site: http://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/
Use of zoning overlay districts can be innovative ordinance tool for cities
Overlay Districts are in many ways like any zoning district – they provide development regulations within a specified boundary. These districts are special zones that lie on top of existing zoning districts to modify the underlying district requirements. An overlay zone may or may not match the boundaries of an underlying zoning district.
Overlay zones typically provide a higher level of regulation (more restrictive) than the existing zoning classification, but they can also permit exceptions or be less restrictive. In cases where conflicting standards are given by an overlay district and the underlying zoning category, those of the overlay district typically control.
Overlay districts are used to accomplish a variety of goals. They are usually prompted by recommendations or policies in a community’s master plan or a special study. Examples of goals related to overlay regulations include water quality protection, traffic safety / access management, appearance standards, signs, historic preservation, building height, and land use. For example, an overlay district may permit greater building height or additional land uses if certain conditions are met.
Basic Steps to Create a New Overlay District
- Establish a policy framework through a planning study or master plan update.
- Spatially define the area of the overlay district. What is the basis for the boundaries?
- Consider whether the same policy framework could be achieved through amendment to a zoning district or a new district.
- Review and answer these important questions: How will the new standards guide development in a way that reflects the vision and/or policy? What will the overlay district regulate and how is it different from the underlying zoning? Will regulations be more restrictive, less restrictive or some of both? Will the overlay district be mandatory or optional?
- Determine the approval process.
- Prepare and adopt amendments.
- Prepare and approve applications forms and procedures.
Can two or more overlay districts affect a single parcel?
Yes, it is possible to have more than one overlay district impact a single parcel. A flood protection overlay and a corridor overlay could both impact one or more parcels.
Does an overlay district require developments to receive special approval?
It depends on the goals of the ordinance. It can, for example, allow additional uses by right as an incentive for achieving district goals or – due to the unique goals of the district – it can require special land use or PUD approval in order to receive approval.
What happens when there is a conflict between an overlay district and the underlying zoning district?
In most cases the overlay district controls, but the ordinance needs to specifically address this issue and state which provisions are controlling in the case of a conflict.
As with any regulatory tool, it is important to consult with your local professional planner and local attorney prior to adopting new overlay zoning regulations.Read More
Troy Building Boom Started with an Innovative Plan
A December 2013 article in Crain’s Detroit highlighted the successful redevelopment taking place in the City of Troy – a building boom – and explored how form-based codes have shaped this new development. Before the new zoning standards, however, there had to be a plan. Indeed, the City of Troy was honored by both the Michigan Association of Planning and the Michigan chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for its Big Beaver Corridor Study, completed in 2007. It is this plan that created the vision for the boulevard and directed the development of the City’s form-based code.
Back in 2005, the City of Troy recognized that the suburban development patterns that defined the City had reached its peak in terms of commercial development along major corridors, and was headed towards becoming a place with limited development potential for the 21st Century. Specifically, Big Beaver Road, home to international businesses and the most upscale mall in the region, presented a classic example of post-World War II suburban development. Characterized by a high volume traffic highway and standardized single-use zoning of adjacent properties, it represented the planning philosophy of that era. It was time for a new approach to development. The City retained the services of Clearzoning, Inc. (then known as Birchler Arroyo Associates), a planning and transportation firm who partnered with the award-winning landscape architecture firm, Grissim Metz Andriese, designer Dave Peterhans, and market research firm, The Chesapeake Group.
The Planning Team determined that the City envisioned a bold new direction – to create a “world class boulevard” that would not only create a unique identity for the City, but would offer new opportunities for development that would serve existing and future businesses and residents. The process was thorough and broad-based, incorporating planning, landscape architecture, architecture, market research, and public input from residents, business owners, property owners, and design professionals.
Key Concepts of the Big Beaver Corridor Study include:
- Organize the six-mile corridor into distinct districts. The plan divides the boulevard into districts, each with a unique character.
- Develop gateways at key entry points. Signature architecture, landscaping, and streetscape treatments will create a sense of arrival.
- Enhance corridor landscaping. Street trees will serve as a visual axis along the corridor and will buffer sidewalks from travel lanes.
- Promote foot traffic and walkability. Increased residential uses, mixed-use development, and density will boost pedestrian activity.
- Provide a variety of transportation choices and reduce the dominance of the automobile.
- Transform the corridor into an outdoor museum. Civic art will be installed at gateways and in public squares. Iconic footbridges and sleek, elegant street furniture will also function as public art.
The Study included a detailed implementation program that identified action items and responsible parties. Since completion of this work, the City has revised its zoning code to require the elements envisioned in the plan, and new development activity is now lining the Big Beaver Corridor, filling areas where vacant property and empty, underutilized parking lots once stood.
The situation and challenges that faced the City of Troy and the Big Beaver corridor are similar to those faced by many suburban communities within Michigan and across the nation. The Big Beaver Corridor Study presents a visionary approach to addressing these challenges and embraces planning concepts that have the potential to create a special place and reignite the development potential of the corridor and the region. Many of the Study’s concepts could be modeled and adapted to other communities and corridors. Furthermore, it reinforces that long-range community planning can be transformative for both developed and undeveloped property.Read More
People move to and stay in a community for many reasons. Some come to an area for its prime location; some for its beautiful neighborhoods; and some come for its community feel. What attracts people to a community – and what keeps them there? How well does a community provide for the needs of its residents and businesses? What can the community do to continue to manage and guide development and redevelopment based on changes that happen inside as well as outside the community’s borders?
The Planning Commissions in the cities of Huntington Woods and Lathrup Village are asking these questions as they update their Community Master Plans to reflect recent demographic and economic trends. Indeed, both communities have desirable locations in Oakland County, and both are known for their beautiful residential neighborhoods. And, both communities are known for being involved and engaged. Public input in the planning process is crucial to building consensus and buy-in from community stakeholders. Links to the online surveys are available for both communities on their project pages: Huntington Woods and LathrupVillage.
The Planning Commission, with assistance from its planning consultants, Clearzoning, Inc., asks the communities to provide input via surveys that will contribute to building community consensus and strengthening the community’s sense of place.Read More
At the Michigan Association of Planning annual conference in Kalamazoo, held in early October, David Birchler was recognized for 40 years of membership. Over the years, Dave has been an involved member of this statewide association, including serving as its treasurer and then president in the late 1980′s. Dave has received many project awards from the organization in the past and was also recognized as its “Outstanding Professional Planner” in 2004.
Congratulations, Dave, and here is to many more years of service!Read More
Governor Rick Snyder along with representatives from Pinnacle Foods celebrated the grand opening of the multi-million dollar, 5,000 sq. ft. expansion of the Imlay City Vlasic pickle plant. The plant and its related infrastructure in Imlay Township will be making pickles as well as packaging and distributing products. Today’s celebration marks an important occasion not only for Pinnacle, but also for the economic growth of the Imlay City and Township community. The expansion will result in 29 new jobs, bringing total full-time positions to 300, plus 700 additional seasonal jobs.
During his speech, Governor Snyder highlighted the importance of team work among local officials in assisting Pinnacle Foods with its expansion. The Governor remarked, “I want to compliment the local officials and the partnership that went on here. From the County, to the City, to the Township, to economic development organizations, you’re to be complimented. It’s a great success!”
Planning for this project has been in the works since August of 2012. Imlay Township worked closely with Pinnacle Foods, the Township’s largest employer, to ensure an expedited and smooth rezoning and site plan approval process for the expansion. A key related infrastructure area for the plant is located in the Township’s new, Enterprise Business District. According to David Birchler, CEO of Clearzoning, Inc. and the Township’s planning consultant for the past 35 years said, “Imlay Township created its new Enterprise Business district in order to support the growth of existing businesses as well as attracting new companies to the Imlay area. The innovative zoning district is designed to allow a broad mix of office, retail, and manufacturing uses, with similar location and space requirements, in an atmosphere that encourages collaboration. The built-in provisions for expedited site plan review and approval worked perfectly in helping Vlasic and Pinnacle Foods meet critical production deadlines.”Read More
Zoning check-ups can lead to a better way to zone
People need health check-ups from time to time, and so do zoning codes. Just like you take time to talk with your doctor about your health and how things are working, it’s important to take the time to review zoning ordinances for outdated terms and definitions, identify inconsistencies or conflicting text, and consider how to address planning trends and demographic shifts.
Clearzoning staff recently completed a health check up for the City of Blacksburg, Virginia and found their code to generally be in good shape. Many definitions are current and reflect needs of today’s residents and business owners, including itinerant vendor, life care facility, and personal improvement services.
- District intent statements are descriptive in terms of the types of uses permitted and desired and suggest the form and amenities development should include.
- Provisions that encourage home occupations include standards that protect neighbors while still encouraging self-employed or start up businesses.
- Provisions for manufactured home developments use current language and consider mixing uses
- Many primarily residential districts allow some type of mix of uses that allows residents the opportunity to find basic goods/services close to home, which has the potential to reduce vehicular traffic within the City.
- Regulations provided in the Creek Valley Overlay and Floodplain Overlay district address impact of development on stormwater management and water quality.
- Parking provisions address many uses and are generally presented in a consistent manner; the recognition of mass transit’s impact on parking needs is important.
In general, we would recommend consolidating as many of the duplicative standards as possible to make the ordinance shorter and easier to understand and navigate. In addition, the use of graphics for definitions, district standards, and site standards would really enhance the overall usability of the Ordinance. Cross-referencing sections that relate to uses and standards will ensure that users understand all that is required as well as to help see the impacts of future ordinance changes.Read More