Allowing a city to look like a city

December 2, 2007 at 5:23 pm 1 comment

Most zoning codes in America no longer allow you to build what you’d call a traditional urban cityscape — mixed-use buildings, constructed up to the sidewalk, with retail below and apartments above.

For the most part, such zoning was written right after World War II, when America was high on automobiles, highways and suburbs. The effects on our cities has not been good.

But the city of Fort Wayne is considering taking a big step toward rectifying its antiurban zoning:

Some streets leading into downtown feature a mix of shops and homes that does not fit easily into the city’s defined zoning categories.

A proposed zoning ordinance amendment would create a new classification for these areas to use. The category, called the neighborhood commercial corridor district, is designed to encourage pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development, said Sherese Fortriede, a city planner.

Other good ideas as part of the proposal include:

Change the parking requirements for schools, restaurants and certain other types of buildings. Restaurants and schools would have parking requirements calculated by square footage or other building measurements rather than occupancy, said Ben Roussel, a city planner. Property owners finding a new use for downtown buildings would not need to meet parking requirements, he said.

Change the date property owners must research to show a building had a previous non-conforming use. For instance, homeowners who wanted to continue using a house as a duplex now must show that use as a duplex dates back to 1955. Under the proposed rules, they would only need to trace the use back to 1974, when better records were available, said Bryan McMillan, a city planner.

City council will discuss the proposal at its Tuesday meeting, but the Journal Gazette story does not mention the time of the meeting, and neither does the city web site.

— Jon Swerens. HT: Downtown Fort Wayne Baseball. Photo by Michael Sarver

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Entry filed under: Downtown, government, Jon Swerens. Tags: , , .

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