Process Diary | March 2, 2015

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A Draft Code for Guiding Growth: Ready for your review

For your consideration: A draft of Doña Ana County’s new Unified Development Code (UDC) (9.5mb .pdf).

We’re looking forward to your comments between now and April 10.

The UDC puts the County’s land development rules in one place. It’s a single document that includes all development-related regulations such as zoning, subdivision, and development standards.

The Code is designed to reflect the diversity of the region, including the rural environment, the many types of Colonias, the post-1930’s suburban development, and the different scales of municipalities. It’s an important step towards enabling the goals in the County’s new Comprehensive Plan (.pdf).

For a better understanding of what a UDC accomplishes, download an explanation here (.pdf).

We’ll use your comments and suggestions about the draft UDC to improve the document as it makes its way through successive drafts on its way to becoming a proposed ordinance. This is not the last chance to comment; there will be plenty of time for discussion before an ordinance is put before the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority (CRRUA), the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Board of Commissioners. But to strengthen the UDC’s relevance to community concerns, we encourage you to weigh in sooner rather than later.

If you’re new to this discussion, you can get the quick overview of the process here. And by reading back through the diary posts preceding this one, you can follow each step in the collaborative process to create both the new Comprehensive Plan and the Unified Development Code.

Record your comments, questions and suggestions in the space below this post. Or contact us directly.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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Weigh In | Your Ideas Matter
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  • Robert Spence

    The county needs this document to improve standards for new projects and eventually improve living conditions for the community.

  • http://www.vivadonaanaUDC.org/ Viva Doña Ana UDC

    On a different page someone asked for a roadmap to the UDC since it’s a 327 page document. We wanted to share that information here as it may be helpful to others:

    Unfortunately the UDC doesn’t translate directly to the existing County ordinances as the goal was to not be bound by documents that were repetitive and in places outdated. Here is a general explanation of how the content connects to the existing County chapters.

    Article 1 & Article 2: These combine the general application and procedural pieces of all the disparate documents while streamlining the process.

    Article 3: This is completely new and ties the zoning and community types back to the Comprehensive Plan. This makes the UDC the implementation device of the Plan.

    Article 4: This is an updated, reorganized and augmented version of Chapter 300. While it regulates many of the same things, the engineering standards that were formerly embedded in Chapter 300 have moved to Article 6 and the zoning standards that were embedded have moved to Article 5. You’ll see Subdivision is now only 10 pages instead of the former 58 pages. This is largely do to all the duplication from Chapters 157 and 250.

    Article 5: This is an updated, reorganized and augmented version of Chapter 250. It takes the existing structure of PD, Village and Community districts and reorganizes those as Rural, Intensity, and Use. This section will have most everything to do with a single zone on a two-page spread. These are the site standards. Even with all the new graphics, this section went from the current 129 pages to 101. You’ll see this in most of the sections because of the consolidation of administration, process, and definitions.

    Article 6: This section is the largest and combines the technical ordinances of the County with Chapter 157. So it includes the topics currently covered by 157, 172, 207, 279, 296, 319, and 324. Many of those chapters had duplicative topics and they are now collapsed into Thoroughfares, Access and Parking, Flood Damage Prevention, Grading and Drainage, Water and Wastewater Systems, and Fire Protection.

    Article 7: This combines and coordinates all of the definitions across all the prior documents.

    Article 8: This is the appendix that consolidates supporting information across all documents.

  • Wayne Miller

    Recommendation 2: Clarify and strengthen the project
    Zoning Approval application submission requirements by:

    Including a statement of impact from the applicant describing how the project as designed fulfills the intent of the ordinance with respect to Section 1.3 Intent. The applicant generated assessment should identify and describe any possible negative impacts to onsite or surrounding natural habitat, watershed flows, cultural and community economic assets and how the design mitigates these impacts.

    Including preliminary exterior building elevations and sections as necessary to demonstrate pattern and dimensional conformance to the code standards.

    Discussion:
    It is not clear from the list of site plan submission standards how conformance to building height and frontages will be consistent with the requirements of Chapter 5. Preliminary building elevations and sections should be supplied with the application site plan. This is common practice in many jurisdictions throughout the United States. If conformance to Chapter 5 is not to be assessed as part of the zoning approval process, when will this be done and by
    whom?

    In my view, any applicant (and the design team) should be
    aware of possible negative impacts at the earliest stages of project planning and should be able to demonstrate not only that the project does no harm, but that it helps mitigate and alleviate potential climate, environment and social impacts. In the absence of this requirements, applicants can conform the physical regulations while at same time exacerbating the very conditions that they are designed to prevent. This submission requirement would not compel the applicant to meet any performance standard
    otherwise not adopted, but it would give CDD staff an opportunity to guide the applicant to better design solutions when necessary.

  • Wayne Miller

    Recommendation 3: Strengthen the Community Types Criteria Table by:

    Requiring the availability of all water related services and compliance with regional water planning and conservation guidelines and engineering standards.

    Discussion:
    Table 3.2 establishes criteria for the development of various community types, including Wastewater Service, Transportation Adjacency and Community Adjacency. This table, by its design, requires certain criteria be met, and therefore prohibits development that do not meet these criteria. The presence of wastewater services addresses only one aspect of the complex issue of water management. I believe that this section should be strengthened and clarified to be consistent with regional water planning to also address water supply, water quality, water
    conservation, water harvesting, water treatment for irrigation and flood control. Development should not occur where a comprehensive approach to water management is not possible and where natural and municipal systems cannot provide necessary services. Most of the design standards for these water
    management functions are present in other sections of the UDC. Reference them with respect to the criteria.

  • Wayne Miller

    Recommendation 4: Create an adaptable document; plan for feedback and revision.

    Plan for and institute an update and clarification review process perhaps after the first year of adoption and then every three years thereafter to improve the performance of the process.

    Discussion:
    While practicing architecture in California, I had the experience of both working for the adoption of a specific plan that included a form based code and designing projects within the planning
    area. What I learned from that is that not all circumstances were, ore could be, fully anticipated. There will be complications that make both design and regulation more difficult.
    For example, the graphic patterns typically show single, rectangular adjacent lots with at most two street frontages. What happens when you a have a project that fronts a street on four sides? What if the parcel is not rectangular in shape? (Both
    circumstances have occurred for me.) While this “odd” situations are not unsolvable, they do point out that the code is really only understood when the developers, design professionals and regulators actually attempt to implement it. There needs to be an explicit system for adjusting the code without resort to a full re-design and re-adoption process based upon the experiences of staff and public. These are not likely to be major changes, only
    fine tuning and clarifications to make it easier to use. Do the public, staff, and designers a big favor and build this into the document from the outset.

  • Wayne Miller

    Recommendation 5: Expand the available number of frontage types and patterns shown in Section 5.

    - Allow a two story “Portal” frontage (Section 5, page 107.

    - Add an “Arcade” frontage type that has habitable building above a ground level arcade with store or residential exterior walls recessed from the property line to create a shaded arcade.

    Comments:
    Public ROW boundaries and property lines are typically at the inside edge of the sidewalk. In higher density mixed use and commercial zones, allowing the building frontage to extend to the property line can add substantial usable floor area to a building. The “Arcade” frontage type allows second and third floors to be constructed at the property line while the ground level provides a shaded walking and transition space than can be used for landscaping, displaying store identity or providing shaded outside dining, and extends the usable walking areas adjacent to narrow sidewalks in the ROW.