Reverse-Engineering a New Zoning Code

An Opportunity to Build More of what we Love in Cities

In recent times, as cities evolve and urban planners seek sustainable development practices, the idea of revisiting the traditional structures and layouts of old downtowns has become increasingly popular. Many cities, facing the question of how to revive their urban core, are asking themselves: What if we could replicate the magic of our traditional downtown? Taking our city as an example, we're going to delve into what our current zoning code says, what it used to be, and how we might adjust our code to recreate the charm of yesteryears.

The juxtaposition between the current zoning code and the traditional downtown offers a clear picture of how development priorities have changed over the years. To align modern urban planning with the ethos of historic architecture and design, it's necessary to draft a zoning code that facilitates the creation of spaces reminiscent of our old downtowns. With this in mind, let's examine a proposed municipal code designed to catalyze this transformation.

Municipal Code: Traditional Rowhouse (TR) Zoning Designation

  1. General Provisions:

    1. Creation of a new zoning type, TR (Traditional Rowhouse), is hereby established.

    2. TR zoning can be designated exclusively for traditional rowhouse construction.

    3. TR is also authorized by right as an allowed building type within all current Residential, Retail, and Commercial zones.

  2. Authorized Uses within TR:

    1. Mixed-use, including residential, commercial, hotel, and retail, is permitted on all parcels and all floors.

    2. Non-residential use on the second floor or higher is restricted to the hours of 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The existing city noise ordinance shall also apply.

  3. Spatial Provisions:

    1. No front, side, or rear setbacks required.

    2. If subdivided from a larger parcel, properties are to feature a 10 foot wide alleyway at the rear connecting each new parcel to an adjacent street.

    3. Minimum lot dimensions: 16 ft wide by 40 ft deep.

    4. No restrictions on the number of units per parcel or building height.

    5. Basements are allowed by right in accordance with existing habitation, fire code, and flood rules.

    6. No floor-area-ratio (FAR) requirements.

  4. Design and Construction:

    1. Single staircase and point access block-style construction is permitted by right.

    2. Elevators are not required, if an any elevator is included it must be able accommodate the size and weight of a standard electric wheelchair according to current Federal Accessibility guidelines.

    3. Ground floor must be wheelchair accessible from adjacent streets and sidewalks.

    4. All buildings are exempt from any and all existing design review and community outreach.

  5. Environmental and Safety Provisions:

    1. Building are to be electric only. Natural Gas, Propane, and any other combustible fuels for cooking, heating, or appliances are prohibited.

    2. Wood fireplaces are prohibited.

    3. Septic systems are prohibited.

    4. Roof-mounted solar and inverter battery system installations are permitted.

    5. Buildings over 40ft in height must feature either exterior fire escapes or fireproof stairwells. Exterior fire escapes may extend up to 5 feet over the public right of way.

  6. Restricted Uses and Provisions:

    1. No automobile parking (parking ban), but indoor bicycle parking is permitted.

    2. Drive-thru businesses, self-storage facilities, and car washes are prohibited.

    3. Publicly accessible vending machines are allowed by right.

  7. Approval and Compliance:

    1. All construction is approved by right; construction can commence immediately post-filing provided project compliance with TR and other relevant codes.

As cities continue to grow and evolve, our approach to zoning and urban development must be adaptable. The aforementioned TR zoning code, inspired by the principles of traditional downtown designs, serves as an innovative yet respectful nod to our past. By amalgamating the charm of the old with the efficiency of the new, we can ensure that our cities are not only functional but also places that people love to live in, work in, and visit.

Moreover, this new codes emphasize pedestrian-friendly, sustainable, and community-centric ideals. It highlights the importance of recognizing that our past architectural practices, combined with modern sustainability measures, can lead to the creation of cohesive, environmentally conscious urban environments. As we continue to move forward, may our cities become testaments to both our cherished history and our boundless future potential.

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