Public input session held to discuss zoning code

Phil Walker leads a public input session on future zoning codes (photo: Sarah Raines, SDN)
Staff Writer

The city held a public input session Wednesday evening to get citizens involved in creating a new zoning code.

Phil Walker and Bob Barber from Walker Collaborative, the company that has worked alongside the city to create the comprehensive plan, led the meeting.

"Many times throughout the process during the last six to eight months, you have heard me use the phrase referring to our comprehensive plan that we are not making law," Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "Well, today we are entering the process that will lead us down the long road of making law."

The intent of the meeting was to find what in the current zoning code needs to be revised and changed to align with the vision that is in place in the new comprehensive plan. The first step in developing law through the comprehensive plan was the zoning codes.

"Why we decided to move directly into a code-writing exercise as soon as we developed a comprehensive plan, is we're working with a hodgepodge of development regulations, most of which were developed sometime in the 1960's, 1970's," Wiseman said. "If you think about how much the world has changed, we don't do much today in the same manner that we did then. What we are effectively asking people to do, now, is we're asking them to develop 21st century projects in a 1960s, 1970s regulatory climate … and it can be done, but that is not easy to do."

The topic discussed most frequently was a lack of flexibility with design when developing.

"The need for flexibility is in many places in the code," Barber said. "It has many one-size-fits-all places. Trying to impose a single solution on multiple kinds of developmental conditions."

Another point that was discussed was trying to streamline the development process, where minor developments will be easier to bring into action than major developments. This will require more consideration from the Planning and Zoning Committee and the Board of Aldermen.

"We also talked about the idea of having an intent section at the beginning of things," Walker said. "We can explain what we are trying to achieve with different requirements … then, at least people will have a context for why we are asking certain requirements."

Other topics discussed included addressing the need for better access to buildings and areas for handicapped people, guidelines that are in the zoning code that need to transform with society, such as where and when antennas may be erected, and different requirements for street development in the city.

Before the public input session, Walker and Barber had a meeting with design professionals and a meeting with boards and commission. They will have a development review committee meeting on Thursday at 9 a.m.