How Zoning Regulations Are Changing in Some Major U.S. Cities

Zoning RegulationsTraditional zoning regulations have typically separated cities and large urban areas into distinct areas based on the activity occurring in those zones. Commercial zones contained retail stores and offices, residential zones contained houses, and industrial zones contained manufacturing and similar businesses.

This approach was originally intended to separate residential and commercial areas from businesses that created significant amounts of pollution. Today, with polluting businesses becoming less common and with urban work/life integration becoming more attractive, zoning regulations in some U.S. cities are starting to change to reflect a new approach.

Performance-based zoning, also known as form-based zoning, is receiving increasing interest from planning and zoning boards in major cities such as Denver, Nashville, Fort Worth and Denver. Performance-based zoning represents a general rethinking of zoning concepts and loosening of long-standing zoning restrictions. With this new approach to zoning, urban areas can become more practical for both residential and commercial concerns.

Standard zoning processes have long been concerned with the uses of buildings constructed in a particular zone. For example, manufacturing companies could not be located in residential zones. In performance-based zoning, there’s less concern with the use of a particular building and more interest in how all the structures in a zone, in total, will contribute to the look of the streetscape and the overall goals for the area.

Cities that undertake performance-based zoning projects establish a set of requirements for a new neighborhood. The requirements could mandate that a certain number of jobs be created in that area, that the structures adhere to specific energy efficiency standards, or that a specified number of homes or multifamily residences is built. Once the requirements are set, it’s up to the planners to determine how the requirements will be met. This process gives planners and developers significant freedom in deciding what kinds of structures and activities will be integrated into the neighborhood.

Construction Monitor tracks building permit and housing start activity in cities throughout the United States. Contact us today for more information on zoning regulations and how they’re being changed and adapted for contemporary urban development.

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