Senior Planner John Neal and Principal Planner Tammara Tracy brought forth details on Tuesday about the ordinance that may soon be Indianapolis' new consolidated and streamlined zoning code and announced that the full ordinance would be posted on indyrezone.org for public viewing and comment.
"We want to know we have public support. A key element of that is to share this draft with the public through our website and invite them to comment so that if there are things they would like to see changes," Neal said. "[And] we want them to see that this will make a better Indianapolis when it is adopted."
Neal and Tracy believe that Indianapolis can get to their ideal city through changes to zoning. They have looked at what the city wants through opinions from residents in the initial public meetings in 2012, with the task force and steering committee and with the final round of public forums that took place on Tuesday at the Athenaeum. Tracy said that every single Marion County resident is effected by zoning so they have emphasized giving everyone a voice in the changes.
Though this new zoning ordinance is hefty at 654 pages, Neal said that it is more streamlined than before and much more user-friendly. According to the ReZone website, the code was last comprehensively revised in the 1970's, when Uni-Gov was new and when zoning was a "one-size-fits" all approach. Several zoning classifications have been consolidated and updated for how Indy has developed over time and how planners and citizens want that development to continue.
The goal of Indy ReZone is to make the city a more livable, more sustainable Indianapolis with neighborhoods where people want to live and to develop places where people want to go for recreation. The new plan will not hear old cases on zoning, because it is focused on the future. Tracy said the changes will be grandfathered in so current legal structures will still be legal as the changes will only effect future development.
Some key changes that will be implemented are: the most densely populated residential areas can be opened to other types of development like retail and residences can be opened to other uses after five plus years of vacancy. Other "accessory" services can be added in highly populated areas like assisted living facilities, small retailers and bike-shares.
Tracy said that the trend has been toward mixed use developments that allow residences and retail to coexist side-by-side or in the same building. She did emphasize, though, that this trend and new zoning will not kill unique neighborhoods, but will create new choices and celebrate uniqueness. Tracy said that the city is trying to focus more on redevelopment and sustainability rather than adding to urban sprawl.
"We want to encourage redevelopment in the right way," Tracy said.
Neal said that the new developments will have to meet a "green factor," and will have new landscaping requirements. He said that there will be many options to get to the green score like planting new trees, planting a green roof or planting a foliage wall. Other sustainability factors will be requiring bike lanes in larger subdivisions and extending subdivision standards to commercial and industrial areas.
There will also be changes to parking for future developments. Businesses on small lots will not be required to have onsite parking, and some larger structures will even have an imposed parking upper limit as well as bike parking requirements. Some of the things that were not touched by this ordinance are signage regulations and negotiated districts.
After the public has a chance to comment on the ordinance in the next few weeks, necessary revisions will be made, and the ordinance will be sent through the approval process. Neal said the ordinance could potentially be through the process by the end of 2014, but he said that depends on how extensive the changes are from the public and how fast the City-County Council moves on the ordinance.
Neal said several members of the council were involved in the planning stages and that they have been in the loop with process. Another aid, he said, is the more than 1900 footnotes to give insight into each change of the zoning in the proposed code.
"We did that [the footnotes] so that when it goes through the approval process people have a better understanding of why the changes are proposed," Neal said. "And so they will understand that the changes are really important for adoption and trying to round up the public support and legislative support that we will need to make this happen."