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Old Posted Aug 22, 2018, 9:38 AM
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Post Zoning Out: The Zoning Codes of the Midwest & Their Quirks

I tried this topic in City Discussions, but have an interest in drilling down to the Midwest. This will be a thread to tell us about your city's zoning code and developments and updates - good and bad - in them.

So, to get this started, I'd like to ask some basics about regulations concerning your city's single-family home districts, either detatched or semi-detatched. What are the lot minimum sizes/area allowed; minimum/maximum widths and depths? What are the yard (front, side and back) setback requirements, if applicable, or build-to lines? What are the height limits and maximum lot coverages? Are there any limitations of dwellings-per-lot; are accessory dwelling units allowed?

Are the codes in your city strict and/or relatively easy to get around? What's the process for rezoning like? Tell us what you'd change, if anything.

Anyway, post anything you want related to zoning. I'm interested to see how the codes compare and contrast and how they've structured our cities in this region of the country.
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Old Posted Sep 7, 2018, 3:25 PM
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Many of these ordinances are easily accessible online. I doubt if many members have a deep understanding of the particular zoning regulations of their city, I could be wrong.
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Old Posted Sep 10, 2018, 8:31 AM
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Yes, so I wasn't doing this just for my personal interest, but rather a place to exchange information about various zoning issues, both existing and zoning innovations. Some people will be interested and other won't. This thread is for folks who will be interested in this type of thing. I plan to put up some information on my city in the coming days.
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Old Posted Sep 10, 2018, 6:45 PM
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City of Chicago’s zoning is rather complex and There’s like a 130 something zoning codes in the villages immediately surrounding the city of Chicago. Plus all the bizarre downzoning in Chicago has made some neighborhoods where apartments stand, noncomforming as they are now zoned single family residential.

Just to throw out a random zoning code. Here’s the lot size and setbacks for unincorporated Cook County and unincorporated Chicago...which those R5 lots are smaller than what the ordinance allows as they were platted out like city lots and never annexed
https://www.cookcountyil.gov/file/12...token=hpgGhAn8

Here’s a map with all the villages and the City zoning codes overlay, plus the municipal boundaries

https://maps.cookcountyil.gov/cookviewer/mapViewer.html
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Old Posted Sep 11, 2018, 9:52 AM
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Thanks. None of that is particularly unusual. In an old urban area where you've got a central city surrounded by other incorporated cities, each is very likely to have it own zoning code. In fact, I'd imagine in most states, an incorporated city is likely required to have its own zoning code, and those areas that aren't incorporated fall under a county zoning code. It's also not particularly unsual for most of these cities' development to have occured prior to the introduction of zoning codes, in which lots that were empty or became empty and were then provided a zoning designation outside the requirements of that lot are grandfathered in as "lots of record." These are always buildable lots, but it's made harder to develop them as you usually have to take the extra step of going to the city to get a variance or a rezoning.

Anyway, in my city of Lansing, for detatched single family homes you've got the zones A, A-1 and B. The only difference between these three is the lot area requires:

Lot area: 6,000 square feet (A), 5,000 sq ft (A-1) and 4,000 sq ft (B)

Yards: Front: 20 ft min - 50 ft max / Side: 6 ft or 10% the lot width but not less than distance to allow a vehicle / Back: 30 ft min

Height: 33 ft max

Lot coverage: 40% for all structures, 55% total area

The big one I'd change is the front yard minimum, and then also the area requirements. Basically, I think so long as you build the structure to the structure requirements in the code, you shouldn't have to worry about the size of the lot. For the front yard - and this is addressed in the new proposed Form-Base Code - I'd add a "build-to" line where you'd be required to build to the existing blockface. There are very few lots in the city - and really no lots in the older part of the city - where buildings are setback 20 feet from their property lines, and that is an excessive amount in any case. As it stands, now, to be able to build infill on single-family lots in the inner-city and have the setbacks match the existing blockface, you have to request a variance, which prolongs the process.

The other big thing would be the allowance of accessory dwelling units, but even in the new proposed zoning code for my city they are not permitted. I've found even some otherwise low-density suburbs around Metro Detroit (Garden City, for example) allow accessry dwelling units.

Other little quirks I found in my city's zoning code? Attached single family homes are regulated as multi-family buildings. Oh, and a group of residents angry with single-family homes being split into duplexes in their neighborhood successfully lobbied the city some years back - this didn't even make the news - to help them keep out these renters. The sneaky amendment to the zoning code put into place? The duplex zoning district (C) now requires 60 feet of road frontage. Very few of these homes which had previously been split into two units had lots that had 60 feet or road frontage. This essentially stopped cold the conversion of old homes in the inner-city to duplex units.

Huge caveat on single-family dominated neighborhoods in the city either attached or detatched, the "Planned Residential Development" overall essentially allows developers to get around this when developing on the few large parcels left in the city. This allows developing a mix of all kinds of housing (single-family attached and detached and multi-family buildings) on land that might otherwise be zoned for only single-family homes. The only case is that all dimenstional and density requirements for the underlying district still apply. Even then, you can get around density requirements as bonuses are awarded for setting aside land on the parcel for open-space, saving existing stands of trees on the parcel, buildings that promote energy conservation, or if the land is deemed "blighted."

So, I'd say the zoning code here is probably not all that strict given how easy it is to get around it and given how basic and simple the requirements are. Also, most of all our non-residential/commercial and industrial-dominated districts are actually mixed-use, though usually only by way of a special land use permit. At the same time, there remain small but significant issues that discourage truly urban development in much of the city, the biggie being parking minimum requirements, which are probably more strictly adhered to than anything else in the code.
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