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Saturday, October 17, 2009

How Valuable is Land Use Appropriation?

Last week, I had a client send me to New York City to do a feasibility study for a project.

As the President of the Plan Commission, I took time to meet with the Department of City Planning Director and the President of the New York City Plan Commission. I sat in on their monthly meeting. New York City with its many boroughs and mass population has different issues than does a town of 60,000 people.

While at the Department of City Planning, I had a plethora of reference materials that office staff walked me through. As with any new development project, there is research that has to be done to make sure that the building requested meets established standards.

Land Use plans and Zoning have the ability to shape a city. It is vitally important to the structure of community. If there could be such a comparison, the Comprehensive Plan is like a Holy Bible of the community that every elected official should reference when contemplating land use decisions.

The entire concept is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another.
Zoning may be use-based, or it may regulate building height, lot coverage, and similar characteristics, or some combination of these. Designated permitted uses are categorized based on projections of what best suits an area as well as community input. Classifications cover Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Mixed Use, and Manufacturing depending on what city you are located.

Anderson recently completed an extensive plan a couple of years ago. In a visit to the office of Mayor Brainard of Carmel, Indiana earlier this year, he shared with me Carmel’s Comprehensive Plan. Any citizen of the community can view it online at

Each city has a plan that provides the frame work for long-range decision making. When I sit in on meetings and listen to some of our elected officials speak about our community it becomes quite apparent who has a person agenda and who understands the framework for this community and has read the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
From environmental concerns to urban sprawl there should be a unified point of reference for community and elected officials regarding any proposed future development.

Locally, the governing bodies over decisions regarding land use in order of authority are the City Council, The Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Plan Commission.
From granting variances from developmental standards, special exceptions, and administrative relief in regard to land use and building requirements or from individuals who are questioning the appropriateness of orders made by City officials to enforcing the Zoning Ordinance of the Town and make land use decisions, the directive is clear.

It is foundational to the community’s health and advancement that the value of land use appropriation be established and respected to ensure quality development of our town.

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