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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doctor about your health and how things are working, it’s important to take the time to review zoning ordinances for outdated terms and definitions, identify inconsistencies or conflicting text, and consider how to address planning trends and demographic shifts.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.