The Real Deal - October 2017

Date: October 20, 2017

Fairfax County Accepting Plan Amendment Nominations for North County Districts
By: Keith Martin

Between now and December 5, 2017, citizens, property owners and community organizations may submit proposals for revisions to the long-range land use plan for sites located within the four north county magisterial districts – Dranesville, Hunter Mill, Providence, and Sully.

Eligibility Requirements.  During the process, nominations may be submitted by anyone, including a landowner, designated agent, or other interested party.  However, if the nominator is not the property owner, written notice by certified mail to the owner(s) is required.  (Only one nomination for a particular site will be permitted per nominator.) 

Sites eligible for suggested revisions to the plan include:

  • Site(s) located outside the boundaries of any pending plan amendment or special study on the planning department’s schedule work program;
  • Areas that have not been part of a plan amendment adopted within the past four years; and 
  • Only non-residential proposals may be submitted for areas subject to the 2016 proffer reform bill.

Each nomination – which may be submitted via e-mail or in writing – must include a completed nomination form, a description of the type of development envisioned under the revised plan, and a written justification explaining how the proposal would:

  • Address an emerging community concern;
  • Better implement the Concept for Future Development and not be contrary to long-standing county policies;
  • Advance major policy objectives such as environmental protection, revitalization, economic development, preserving open space, providing affordable housing, or balancing transportation infrastructure and public facilities with growth and development;
  • Respond to actions taken by others, such as federal, state, or adjacent jurisdictions;
  • Reflect implementation of the comprehensive plan guidance; and/or
  • Respond to or incorporate research derived from technical planning or transportation studies. 

Once nominations are received, they will be revised by the planning commission staff to ensure eligibility requirements have been met and then forwarded to community task forces and the planning division for additional screening.

Any questions, please call me at 703-280-9137.

New Zoning Code Threatened by Urban Renewal Plans
By: Adam Baker

In June 2017, after nearly ten years of planning, drafting and revising, Baltimore City’s new zoning code became law.  In some areas of Baltimore, however, existing Urban Renewal Plans are undermining the new code’s visions for growth and development.  While city and neighborhood stakeholders are working to align the new code with existing Urban Renewal Plans, the conflict between the two is creating uncertainty for developers in some areas of the city.  

What is an Urban Renewal Plan?

An Urban Renewal Plan (“URP”) is a type of zoning overlay that imposes additional restrictions above the underlying zoning with respect to the permitted uses and acceptable design within a defined area.  The geographies of URPs range from pocket business districts to entire residential communities.  Baltimore City currently has 62 URPs.   

URPs date back to the 1960s and 70s, when many cities across the country were trying to innovate spatial and social strategies to revitalize neighborhoods and stimulate urban growth and development.  The impetus behind the revitalization efforts was that cities were forced to address the challenges and opportunities that emerged in the transition from an industrial to a post-industrial, knowledge-based economy.  URPs provided a planning tool to help implement the various revitalization strategies.  

In Baltimore, URPs have effectively become small area plans adopted by the Mayor and City Council in an effort to establish and implement design and development objectives.    The 62 URPs in Baltimore fall into one of four primary categories of plans: downtown, commercial corridors, industrial areas and neighborhood plans. 

Goals of the New Zoning Code

The Baltimore City Zoning Code was approved by the City Council and the Mayor in December 2016 and enacted in June 2017.  The first overhaul of the city zoning code in over forty years, the new zoning code is intended to foster a more flexible, contemporary development philosophy, promoting redevelopment of existing buildings, mixed use projects, transit oriented development, and walkable neighborhoods tailored to the lifestyles of today’s urbanites.

In addition to the residential, commercial and industrial zones often found in traditional euclidean zoning, the City’s new zoning code introduces a variety of special purpose zones designed to accommodate specific blends of uses.  Zones such as Transit Oriented Development, Office Residential, Educational Campus, Medical Campus, and the Port Covington zones, among others, are intended to provide more appropriate parameters for development in areas of Baltimore City which are defined by particular uses or institutions (e.g. transit hubs, medical campuses).  In addition to these specialized zones, the new zoning code provides for transitional zones to supplement the traditional zoning categories in areas of the Baltimore City where industrial or commercial areas abut residential neighborhoods.  The transitional zones are designed to allow a more diverse mixture of uses which will more seamlessly integrate into areas where diverse zones and uses are adjacent to one another.   

What Challenges do the URPs bring to the new Zoning Code?

While much of the design and development philosophy underpinning the new zoning code incorporates the themes found in many of the city’s existing Urban Renewal Plans, this apparent harmony is not universal throughout the city.  In fact, there are certain areas where Urban Renewal Plans are in direct contrast to the flexibility permitted under the new code.  In these instances, the Urban Renewal Plan trumps the code and any flexibility which the new code may permit.  

The City Council, in conjunction with the Department of Planning and various neighborhood stakeholders, has been working to harmonize the URPs with the new zoning code where there are inconsistencies.  Over the last 12 months, two URPs have been repealed and eight have been amended.  In the coming months, more URPs will be updated or repealed in an effort to implement the new zoning code unfettered.

Whiteford, Taylor & Preston is monitoring these transitions for our clients.  As you perform your diligence, whether it is for new development, redevelopment or even a change in use, you should confirm whether the area is within a URP and, if so, how the URP may impact any uses or development of the property.