Thursday, October 29, 2009

Smart Development

Land development across America is a constantly changing formula. In years past and currently today, many developments were created to meet the particular needs of that area. For instance, suburbs were created to alleviate some of the problems facing large urban cities. In other cases, city zoning and variances restrictions were eased in an attempt to lure profitable gains from ambitious land developer. However, many people consider those days ancient history. With the economy in its present state, what are the land development needs of any city, county, or state? Do we need more houses? Perhaps many cities across the nation have a great need for apartments or condominiums? Over the course of many years, land developers rid themselves of a basic economic principle called supply and demand. As a result, there are many cities with many empty dwellings. On the other hand, I hope smartcode developers have learned from the past. If so, the smartcode development future is unlimited.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Community Districts

Local governments around the United States should consider new regulations, guidelines, and entities when considering land development. One consideration is to defer some decision making to neighborhood associations. For instance, when it comes to historic preservation and the granting of variances, the people who live within that district have an interest in the decision. In most cases, the people who live in the neighborhood have working knowledge and experience regarding the overall future and direction of their respective neighborhoods. These neighborhood associations can provide background information to the governing board who makes the decision or the neighborhood association could ultimately make the decision. I know this is potentially a lot of power to give a nongovernmental body, but they are affected the most by the final decision. Neighborhood associations can provide flexible implementation which can be tailored to meet the particular needs of each distinct community.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Land Regulation

Many zoning codes provide an intensive list of the proper building aspects allowed in a particular zone. One example would be a district zoned H-1. Hypothetically, lets presume that H-1 stands for commercial. If the zoning code does not provide detailed specific on such things as height or set-back requirements, the neighbors, the city, or the present developer could potentially face problems. For example, there have been some city zoning ordinances that provide a "no height restriction" in a hypothetical H-1 zone. Although this may be an attempt to lure future developers to the district, it can bring problems. The no height restriction can bring an industrious business person to your city, with plans of building an enormous skyscraper. True, this probably would not present a problem in a commercial zone, but potential land zoning drafters should be careful to classify any zone with a no height restriction. Uniformity within an zoning district should be an important aspects when drafting a zoning ordinance.

Monday, October 19, 2009


A variance is an owner's requested deviation from the existing zoning code of that particular city or county. Developer's variance requests are basis in most instances, but can potentially become costly in the form of litigation and fees. A variance can cover many aspects affecting the development of the parcel of land such as: increasing the height of a building, decreasing setback requirements, land coverage, and light requirements. The developer will have to receive clearance from the regulating board of his or her city. The city's planning and development department handles these requests and looks at many factors. Minor variances will be granted by the governing board without much deliberation. However, the governing board will take into consideration such things as uniformity. Also, the governing board will take into consideration what effect the new variance will have on the people most effected, the neighbors and surrounding community.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Alabama Property Taxes

According to, Alabama's property taxes are the lowest in the nation. These low property taxes make it difficult for ideas like Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to be successful. TIF allows any increase in property taxes in a certain district to be reinvested in that district. The idea behind TIF is to encourage development in a particular district by rewarding them for improvements that raise property value (leading to more property taxes). The problem in Alabama is that since property taxes are low, even doubling or tripling the property values does not result in much money to put back into the district.

But, I guess it is not a good time for more taxes. Or, maybe it is.

Monday, October 12, 2009


In many counties, there are legitimate zoning districts. For example, one county might have designated a particular piece of land as agricultural. This classification usually remains until there are needs for change. More than likely, a piece of land zoned agricultural or any other classification was given that distinction to preserve the targeted area for years to come. This preservation technique was implemented to possibly make zoning easier and to make developments more uniformly predictable. This type of land development technique is called Transferable Development Rights. There are a lot of variables to be analyzed in the implementation of a TDR. However, the basis of this program comes from sprawl. Many agricultural zoned parcels of land have faced pressure from urban growth. This urban growth forces farmers to comply with the economical demands of the rapidly growing urban area. TDR's are just an open in preserving open land, but governments across the board could use more innovative ways in protecting open land.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Many developers face the task of rezoning, before they begin actual construction. Usually, the governing the board over the rezoning process will grant a variance to the petitioning developer. However, the attempt to rezone a particular parcel of land must be reasonable. A developer who may want to build residential houses in an industrial zone will not be granted any variance. A lot of reasons can be given for the denial of this variance, but usually a developer can research the local zoning ordinance and find out the reasonable limits of granting a successful variance. Another easy tool of research for developers is to view the city. It is likely possible to find many examples of rezoning trends in that particular city. However, all developers know that the governing authority who grants or denies variances rely on many factors such as a well developed site plan. So, it is imperative to have a well organized plan before speaking to any board.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Smart Development

The SmartCode manual is probably the best form of development any city, county, or state can engage in for their benefit. The code outlines in detail the necessary steps to accomplish SmartGrowth. Also, the language in the code is plain and easily understandable to the everyday potential home owner. However, the code is detailed in the requirements one must have to adopt there plans and the cost of the development will typically be higher than normal developmental projects. Some of the guidelines and plans listed in a SmartCode include such things as architectural standards, setback standards, community types, and visibility standards. Of course, these can be considered as normal guidelines for any land development, yet they are typically not. For instance, the SmartCode has a smaller setback regulation than the average development. Another instance is the requirement of uniformity throughout the development. Also, Smart developments have smaller roads, more mixed uses, agricultural benefits, and better building configuration. Hopefully, we can expect more entities to adopt the SmartCode standards in the future.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Baby Boomers

As we all know, the great baby boomers and their surrounding age group generation are becoming more predominant in today's time. Many people view this aging population and think about such problems as SSI or Healthcare, but what about housing. In certain parts of the United States, there is an increasing demand for some type of Senior Housing development. The baby boomers can be considered as there own class of people. As many approach the age of retirement or continue to strive past it, what plans are being arranged to secure housing for this class of people. Will there have to be an increase in the amount of nursing homes? Will the government increase funding or create new programs? Will America just wait to see what happens? Land developers should consider addressing this problem in the years to come before it becomes a big issue. Land developments should be tailored to meet the needs of a particular city or county. Of course, this rarely happens because most developments are made in an attempt to make money or fulfill a dream. However, every town, city, county, province, state, and governing body should have a broad view on future developments, with more than just economic relief. Maybe, an affordable senior housing development is needed in a place like the Historic Cloverdale region?