5 Reasons to Update Your Zoning Ordinance

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In relation to National Planning Month, let’s look at one of the implementation tools of your planning actions, the zoning ordinance. As I’ve stated with comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances are also living documents and should be considered for regular updates. They should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis as the landscape of the development arena is under constant change. However, most rural communities don’t have the experienced staff needed to regularly complete updates.

So is it time to finally update your ordinance? Here are some possible cues to look for that may be a good indication to undertake a full update:

  1. Have you made a significant update since your last full update of your comprehensive plan? There may be goals and strategies that were created in that new comprehensive plan that don’t line up well with your zoning ordinance. Your zoning ordinance is supposed to be one of the main tools to implement the comprehensive plan. But if it doesn’t match up well with your plan, you are significantly holding back the success of your comprehensive plan.
  2. How old are your regulations in regards to renewable energy? Not just solar arrays on individual houses, but solar farms, which are becoming more popular. Then what about wind energy? Not just the juggxrnaught of large scale wind farms, but also personal small-scale wind turbines.
  3. Also, how old is the wireless communications section of the regulations? There have been a number of changes over the past 5-10 years alone that have been forced by the FCC or state legislatures that would warrant a significant update.
  4. Are the uses listed in your districts showing their age? Do you have uses like “Coin and Stamp Store”, “Pinball and Video Game Arcade”, or even “livery” in your commercial districts?
  5. On the flip side, what about new uses types? There are a number of use types that have gained in popularity over the past few years. The naysayer side of you may say that’s not happening here anytime soon. But you never know, it is better to be prepared. Uses like maker spaces, virtual reality arcades, and accessory dwelling units may find their way to your community. Being ready for them is important if they do.

In general, if your regulations are over 10 years old and have seen minimal changes over the years, you should probably take a hard look at a full update. But the list above should help gauging that need.