Beyond the Density Standard

Zoning Practice — November 2012

By Norman Wright, AICP


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Density requirements are a well-intentioned idea with unintended consequences. Fortunately, there are better solutions available. For decades, cities have used density as one of the principal means for regulating the built environment.

In virtually every instance, from rote limits such as units per acre to more elaborate approaches such as floor area ratio, these standards have dictated much more than just the amount of development that can occur on a given acre of land. And for all the attention that has been directed toward land-use requirements, the use of density standards has largely gone unquestioned in general zoning practice.

This issue of Zoning Practice explains how zoning techniques rooted in the form and physical character of development can address community concerns about compatibility better than simple density limits.


Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2012
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Norman Wright, AICP
Norman Wright is the Community Development Director at the City of Salem, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the APA's Zoning Practice magazine and has also been featured with blogs, video series, and articles with, Practicing Planning, Better! Cities and Towns, and Public Management Magazine. He is also a member of the APA's Foresight Commmittee on Artificial Intelligence.