Zoning Practice — December 2021
By Norman Wright, AICP
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"Less, but better" is a time-tested principle of great design. While zoning ordinances are a product of design, they rarely adhere to this principle. Every practitioner has a sense that some rules are more effective than others. It begs the question: What is the most important rule in your zoning ordinance?
This question often provokes answers that focus on the relationships between the public and private realm, where street frontages, street types, and building placements determine so much of the eventual form and function. When we regulate these elements effectively, we achieve something akin to 90 percent of the urbanism we want with less than 10 percent of the regulations we administer.
This issue of Zoning Practice makes a case for why a minimalist approach to zoning may be necessary to achieve our core aims. It proposes five simple rules that could constitute the basis of an effective zoning code and demonstrates how these rules might work in practice.
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 Planetizen.com, Practicing Planning, Better! Cities and Towns, and Public Management Magazine. He is also a member of the APA's Foresight Commmittee on Artificial Intelligence.