As the April 10 public forum for the Green Code nears, a new report released by the City’s consultant team gives folks some advance reading material. A New Zoning Direction for Buffalo: Technical Report (PDF) was released yesterday that gives a detailed look at Buffalo’s forthcoming form-based code. This second phase of the Green Code promises to put the community’s smart growth and sustainability objectives into the legal framework of a new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that will combine zoning, subdivision, and public realm standards into a single document.
These are some of the “big ideas” in the consultant team’s proposed approach to Buffalo’s new ordinance:
- Zone regulations will be tailored to context. Form standards to encourage walkable, green urbanism will apply to Neighborhood Zones. District and Corridor Zones will be addressed by more flexible standards tailored to their respective functions.
- Form will be emphasized more than use. As a form-based code, the UDO will focus on what’s most important in creating places where people want to live and invest. Endless lists of uses will be replaced by provisions that protect neighborhoods while allowing flexibility for mixed-use development. A conditional approval process will be introduced to handle tricky uses like corner taverns or bed and breakfasts.
- Standards for public and private space will be synchronized. The UDO will incorporate all the elements needed for quality placemaking, including both the public and private realms. For the first time, all oars in land use regulation will be rowing in the direction of smart growth.
- Approval procedures will be consolidated. The unified approach to the new ordinance will allow users to easily find all development approval procedures in a single document. User-friendly flow charts will increase the transparency of these procedures.
- Standards will be objective and measurable. Vague, discretionary requirements will be replaced with unambiguous standards, allowing streamlined approvals and more efficient and transparent administration.
- Regulatory barriers will be removed. The unnecessary impediments to walkable, compact development and the creative reuse of vacant land and structures will disappear and be replaced by standards that match existing and desired neighborhood character.
- Transportation options will be emphasized. For decades, zoning codes have required property owners to provide a set number of off-street parking spaces to encourage automobile use. The new UDO will not include minimum parking requirements, instead allowing the market to respond to changing lifestyle preferences and a range of transportation choices.
- Green development practices will be encouraged. The UDO will bring regulatory clarity to a range of emerging practices, including local food production, on-site and district stormwater management, and alternative energy production.