New Zoning Format Can Help Cities and Other Municipalities Enhance Customer Service and Promote Economic Development
Zoning codes have come under fire over the last 25 years for many reasons ranging from the resulting development patterns they create (mandating sprawl) to the confusing language (legalese) used in these documents. This can lead to a host of negative impacts for a municipality. Some impact day-to-day operations and others last for generations to come.
Zoning codes can be enhanced by better graphics, formatting, and hyperlinking. Municipalities are looking for better zoning formats, online zoning codes, fillable zoning forms, and interactive zoning maps.
The use of graphics is one of the first places to start. Regulations that are depicted graphically are generally easier to understand and more effective. This is particularly true for business owners and citizens that are not familiar with common zoning and development terms. It can also assist staff and Planning Commission members developing a better understanding of what the zoning text is intended to accomplish.
The formatting of most zoning codes has not changed since the time they were first adopted. The outline structure is often confusing, and users are forced to jump from section to section just to find basic information. For example, the lists of permitted and special land uses are often found within the district pages. The building setback, height, and other bulk and density requirements are often found in a separate schedule of regulations. This basic information can be accessed at a glance by combining it on a single or two-page spread.
Changes in technology also make it possible to get answers to basic questions much faster. People do it every day when they search the internet and click on hyperlinks. This same approach works well for zoning codes. The two-page district spread below includes words and terms in blue text. In the actual zoning code, these terms are hyperlinked to another section or another web site. One click can take a user right to the parking requirements or setback regulations. This makes the code user-friendly and it is also word searchable.
For more information on improving zoning ordinances through better formatting, graphics, and other enhancements, contact Clearzoning, Inc. at www.clearzoning.com. To view a sample Clearzoning code, visit www.ruston.org or www.lathrupvillage.org.
Update: Clearzoning has just wrapped up new zoning code formats for Fairmont, WV and Novi, MI. Work has begun on updating zoning code formatting and graphics in Steamboat Springs, CO and Ira, MI.