Just published by the American Planning Association, 21st Century Land Development Code is a unique complete planning and law model code integrating traditional Euclidean zoning with the current movements promoting green codes, new urbanism, and smart growth. It is perhaps the best place to begin local reform efforts. The authors, Robert Freilich and Mark S. White, note that it “is not intended to be cut and pasted wholesale as a new code, nor does it attempt to resolve every issue facing local governments today. Instead it provides the basis for a local code update…” The volume provides a useful list of more than a hundred acronyms that are routinely integrated into the planning “lingo,” but may be unfamiliar to newcomers. In this regard, the Introduction provides a succinct, yet thorough review of the historical development of regulations governing land use up through today’s sustainability and design focused efforts.
One goal achieved by this volume is that it takes the unified development ordinance format that so many municipalities codified in the 1980s, and provides a framework to guide the adoption of modern land development codes that can be effectively implemented. Organized into ten chapters and two appendices, the model code combines those elements essential to community development: flexibility, sustainability, design, usability, efficiency, balanced growth, fiscal impact analysis, infrastructure finance, infill, housing mix and affordability, and revitalization of existing areas.
Among the dozens of topics covered are: sustainability, traditional neighborhood development, transit-oriented development, mixed use centers, subdivision regulations, official mapping, adequate public facilities, variances, conditional uses, religious uses, home occupations and telecommunications. The model code also offers suggested tables, forms, checklists and procedures.
The model code benefits from the breadth of national experience of the two authors who combined, have worked with hundreds of municipalities in the drafting of local land use laws and codes, as well as in the legal representation of local governments on significant, forward thinking land use litigation. The thought leadership of Freilich and White in the field of land use law undoubtedly comes from a combination of their scholarly pursuits and practical experience. These points of reference are evident in the volume which is both a teaching tool and a practical, useful document that can be implemented “off-the-shelf” with appropriate adaptations to local needs and situations, as well as goals as policies as articulated in the local comprehensive plan. The authors encourage users to ensure that in the adaption of the Code’s provisions to local situations, public participation becomes a critical component of the process.
For those tasked with modernizing zoning and land use regulations, the book is organized in a user-friendly format, and it contains useful commentaries in each section that provide guidance on historical developments in the law in planning history, as well as a discussion of issues and options for adapting various aspects of the code to individual communities. Illustrations, definitions, various tables, forms, checklists, and specifications for documents are also included. It is inviting to be read from cover-to-cover, and it is organized and indexed to allow users to hone in on specific topics.
The model Code includes a searchable companion CD-ROM, conveniently containing the entire text of the code and commentaries, along with color illustrations for easy adaption. A unique feature of the model code is the creation of patterns of use for the different types of new urbanism uses, area standards, conditions and design which allows for flexible development as uses by right. This eliminates the need for multiple variances to conform to use and bulk regulations of traditional zoning or to have to go through a planned unit development process. The work also includes design palettes which allow a developer to select from pre-approved designs by the community, or to have an architect create unique designs.
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