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Old 01-18-2014, 01:22 PM
 
Location: Lompoc, CA
29 posts, read 46,443 times
Reputation: 51

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In the city I work in, I've seen several big development permits come in during the last couple of months. What I've noticed during that time is that the city seems very willing and able to change the zoning and general plan usage of parcels of land in a short amount of time in order to accomodate developers and businesses.

While this is definitely good from an economic standpoint, it just makes me wonder about why they establish zoning in the first place if it can be changed over the course of two council meetings.

For instance, there's a developer who's been trying to get all the pieces in place to establish different types of business on a lot for several years. But the lot's zoning didn't allow the first use (RV storage), so the developer had to go to the city to ask for zoning changes and general plan updates. Well sure enough, the RV storage facility project falls through, so now they're asking the city to change it back so they can build for another type of use.

So I guess I have two questions for people out there familiar with this sort of thing:

1. Are other cities this willing to change zoning/general plan usage this quickly?
2. Should they be?
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Old 01-19-2014, 06:48 PM
 
3,069 posts, read 3,183,599 times
Reputation: 3680
Yes it happens - It happens more often when times are tough and cities and towns are doing everything they can to attract a bigger tax base.

Should it happen? That is hard to say. Laws allowing it are different in different places. We have a Comprehensive plan that is updated every 6-10 years (The state changed the process recently) Getting a change in zoning between the comprehensive review is difficult but not impossible. Some nearby jurisdictions (a larger city and the county we are in) seem to be more 'flexible' due to political pressure and or being seen as 'business friendly' (some say the County Commissioners elected in the last cycle are 'owned' by the developers)

I worry primarily about our town :-)
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Old 01-21-2014, 10:14 AM
bu2
 
9,969 posts, read 6,425,543 times
Reputation: 4149
Houston rejected zoning a few years back. The plan was only going to have about 6 zones. Everything over 2 acres was free to be anything (with appropriate setbacks).

American cities are over-zoned. Where I live there are about 50 different zoning categories and nearly a dozen for single family homes. They are trying to simplify and knock off about a third of the zones.

If you have simpler zoning, you need fewer changes, have fewer "gifts" to influential developers and the flexibility to do things that make economic sense. Houston, without zoning, is a lot easier to do the multi-use projects that are becoming popular.
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Old 01-21-2014, 05:10 PM
 
Location: Lompoc, CA
29 posts, read 46,443 times
Reputation: 51
Houston doesn't have zoning? How interesting. Does that interfere or cause problems at all between commercial and residential uses?
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:33 AM
 
Location: New York City
4,036 posts, read 8,935,865 times
Reputation: 3703
Quote:
Originally Posted by toolenduso View Post
1. Are other cities this willing to change zoning/general plan usage this quickly?
2. Should they be?
Zoning works best as a guideline, not gospel. Every plan needs to be adjusted now and then. Itís great that your council is flexible and responsive. Thatís how the system should work. The real controversies happen when developers want to add commercial to/or increase the density of a residential zone. Thatís when the NIMBYs come out en masse. Itís very difficult to up-zone a quiet, low-density, low-traffic neighborhood. Even when demand is enourmous, like in New York or San Francisco.
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Old 01-22-2014, 02:04 PM
 
Location: Southern California
15,087 posts, read 17,556,442 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toolenduso View Post
General plan/zoning -- should it be this easy to change?
Interested individuals/groups should be able to apply for General Plan and Zoning amendments. Whether is should be easy depends on what they propose to do once the amendment is approved.

[and is easy or not is relative]
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Old 02-09-2014, 01:59 PM
bu2
 
9,969 posts, read 6,425,543 times
Reputation: 4149
Quote:
Originally Posted by toolenduso View Post
Houston doesn't have zoning? How interesting. Does that interfere or cause problems at all between commercial and residential uses?
Definitely does sometimes. Houston has adopted parking ordinances so that businesses have to have enough space (or valets) so that their customers don't overrun the neighborhoods. And you could have a high rise right next to single family residential.

Houston also has ordinances keeping adult businesses from locating within a certain distance of schools and industrial uses from being too close to residential (there are some grandfathered cases-but usually the heavy industrial uses like refineries end up buying up nearby residential).

But mostly, real estate developers use common sense and build where it makes sense. The ones who don't often end up with an empty building. There are a few of those isolated 5 story atrium buildings built in the 80s now with alternative uses or empty.
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