Zoning codes literally shape our communities, governing the spacing of driveways, the number of spaces in parking lots, the heights of buildings, the placements of sidewalks, and the size of blocks along with the activities (or “uses”) allowed in each neighborhood. These codes determine whether we will live in a compact, walkable community or in a place where an automobile is needed to get anywhere.
Some codes have been found that date back thousands of years. Many European cities have been continuously coded since the 11th or 12th century, contributing to the character that makes these cities appealing today. These rules were created to govern the relationship between what gets built on private property and the … Continue reading
Pop quiz: match the zone categories with the acreage for Montgomery County (this excludes municipalities with their own zoning authority).
Click to enlarge:
The answers, which may surprise you, are on the next page along with graphic representations.
On March 7th the Planning Board began the final phase of its worksessions on the proposed zoning code: implementation and impacts of the new code. After more than 4 years of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly figuratively speaking), a Revised Preliminary Planning Board Draft has been released. After several final worksessions and concluding public hearing, a Planning Board Draft Zoning Ordinance will be sent to the County Council for introduction in early May.
During the past few years Planning Department Staff has followed an extensive outreach strategy that has included:
Over 80 public meetings, Dozens of Planning Board worksessions, Numerous Council presentations, Regular email “blasts” to hundreds of parties following the project, Press releases for project milestones, Almost weekly … Continue reading
A report from the Brookings Institution: restrictive (read, “exclusionary”) zoning may lead to lower test scores for kids.
“As the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.”
An analysis by US Today shows the recession accelerated trends towards urbanization.
“The shift to more urban housing development has been growing slowly during the past couple of decades and thanks to the recession and housing crash, this trend has accelerated. It is probable … Continue reading
In my last post, I began reviewing two of my favorite books from Witold Rybczynski, someone I consider one of the best authors in architecture and urban studies. The first post covered Last Harvest (2007) . Contrast that to City Life (1995), where Rybczynski theorizes:
“…the American city has been a stage for the ideas of ordinary people: the small business man on Main Street, the franchisee along the commercial strip, the family in the suburbs. It all adds up to a disparate vision of the city. Perhaps the American urban stage is best described as cinematic rather than theatrical. A jumbled back lot with cheek-by-jowl assortment of different sets for different productions….”
Like Last Harvest, … Continue reading
Parking is one of the single-most controversial aspects of development splitting generally along the lines of “we don’t require enough” versus “we require too much”. Parking management is an issue that affects congestion, pollution, pedestrian comfort & safety, potential for open space and green areas, business revitalization feasibility, and many other topics. With so many factors being effected, it’s probable that no model we develop will make everyone (or maybe anyone) completely happy. But it is our task to try.
As many know, the parking ratios we apply to commercial uses have not been updated for decades. And our shared-use model is still based on maximum demand. With this in mind, the County’s DOT and MNCPPC were directed to … Continue reading
On a recent trip for my aunt’s wedding, I had a chance to stop by my grandparent’s place in a small town in CT. One of the first things I noticed, being who I am, is that the community open space was either play space or community garden space. My grandmother, of course, has a small plot where she can grow flowers and some veggies and generally keep active in a town where there isn’t much else to do – especially for seniors (or kids, for that matter). I don’t think we can overstate how important connections to nature and food are and how community gardens, playgrounds, and open space bring people together and promote health, well-being, happiness, etc. … Continue reading
As we start writing the code for the new zoning ordinance, a “big picture” view seems in order. The biggest-picture formula in climate change, called the Kaya identity, is:
F = Global CO2 emissions (combustion, flaring of natural gas, cement production, oxidation of nonfuel hydrocarbons, and transport) P = Global population (total number of human beings) g = Consumption per person (gross world product divided by population) e = Energy intensity of gross world product (global energy consumption divided by gross world product) f = Carbon used to make energy (global carbon dioxide emissions divided by global energy consumption)
The most obvious thing about this equation – if you remember even grade-school math – is … Continue reading
Lately, I’ve been discussing the effort to rewrite Montgomery County’s zoning code. Previous installments have covered zones and uses. Today, I discuss issues that make the current code complex and disorganized.
Like most legal documents, the Montgomery County Zoning Code includes a definitions section. But like other parts of our code, this section has also become cluttered and disorganized.
Montgomery’s code includes 25 defined terms that are not used in the text of the code. “Foster home,” “marquee,” and “roof line” all fall into this category; the meaning of each is clear — because they’re defined — but they are never referenced in the code.
Of the multitude of office types listed as permitted uses, only three … Continue reading
Montgomery County is working to rewrite its aging and complicated zoning code. In the last installment, I discussed problems with our zones. This post looks at issues facing allowable uses.