Decatur Next

Decatur Diary | October 22, 2013

Unified Development Ordinance: What’s this all about?

Like most cities and towns, Decatur has no shortage of growth and development-related regulations on the books. Zoning, subdivisions, pedestrian accommodations, streets and sidewalks, animals, buildings, environmental considerations, storm water, fire, health and sanitation, historic preservation, manufactured homes and trailers, signage, solid waste, and general procedures, all of which can be found here.

You get the idea.

These regulations were all adopted at different points in the city’s history and, in many instances, exist as stand-alone documents. That’s a problem because a typical building project may find itself subject to multiple ordinances yet the relationships between them all is not always clear. Or easy.

Beyond that is the fact that, along the way, changes to one ordinance may have put it at odds with another one. Or injected new questions that didn’t previously exist. Add it all up and what you get is a regulatory environment that’s hard for users to understand and hard for city staff to administer. Which costs time, money and patience at both ends.

First, the “Dirty Work”

Enter the Unified Development Ordinance which, in simplest terms, can be characterized as an exercise in thorough housecleaning. 95% of the process is taking our existing library of development regulations, tidying up any confusion or inconsistency, and consolidating everything into a single, easy, unified document.

No reinvention. No revision. Just integration for simpler, more efficient use and administration.

What About the Remaining 5%?

Regulations evolve over time — goals and preferences change, as does our understanding of impacts and trade-offs — and Decatur’s had plenty of opportunities along the way for residents to help guide the change.

The bulk of this guidance has come in the form of the Town Center Plan, 2000’s Strategic Plan and its follow-up in 2010. And when these documents have failed to provide the necessary guidance on nuanced issues, we’ve assembled citizen-led task forces to help work our way to solutions.

It’s been a good system and today we find ourselves in general agreement on most major issues. However, as recent events attest, we’ve still got a few areas where community consensus just isn’t there yet — especially as it relates to the demolition of single family homes, storm water management, and addressing aging-in-place goals through new or revised development options. So, as we work to clean up and consolidate everything, we’re also using this UDO process as an opportunity to drill down and hammer out some agreement on these remaining issues.

UDO Percents

Meetings and input opportunities will be coming up quickly so stay tuned here to Decatur Next for all the latest announcements and progress reports. We’ll post everything for online comments and discussion and look forward to your participation.

More soon.

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  1. […] November, as well as a few minor edits and additions adopted thereafter, Decatur’s long-discussed Unified Development Ordinance is now in full […]

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