At first, changing a city’s zoning code may sound quite boring. But, upon closer look, it could mean things like more community gardens, fixing up abandoned buildings, creating bike parking, and preserving our maritime district. But, it’s no easy task.
“Most major cities haven’t revised their zoning code in 40 years because there are so many pieces to the puzzle,” says city planning director Tom Stosur, who was tasked with creating the proposed new zoning map. “Back in 1971, the code was set up with a suburban mindset. The idea was to mimic the suburbs, where all the growth was happening.”
But times have certainly changed and the revised zoning code—a part of the mayor’s effort to attract 10,000 new families to the city—will be heard by the City Council on April 3. “Under the new code, if there’s a building in a residential neighborhood, like an old warehouse or a church, you can apply to do a low-scale business use,” Stosur says. “You’re preserving that old building for new uses, like a shop or a gallery.”
The new code hopes to modernize the city by creating new districts like transit zones along the existing metro, light rail, and future Red Line. Additionally, it proposes new hospital and educational campus zones, as well as a permanent maritime zone. “We want to keep those areas for port-related uses only,” Stosur says. “Sure, people can make money from condos, but we believe in the collective best interest of the city.”
Another aspect of the code is creating opportunities for community gardens, which would make places like Real Food Farm in Clifton Park, pictured, a permitted zone for urban agriculture. And like with any city plan, this month’s hearing is just the beginning. There will be more hearings and constant refinements through the fall.
“We want an easy, controlled way for residents to make changes,” Stosur says.