In 2010, the City of Decatur completed a 10-year update to its Strategic Plan, which was led by TSW and defined a community-based vision for its future. This plan provided steps for the City to take in order to achieve its goals of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. However, as the City and its consultants looked at how to promote these ideas, it became clear that the regulations that guided growth in the City were often at odds with the Plan.
To align their regulations with the Strategic Plan in a progressive, user-friendly format, the City retained a team led by TSW to prepare a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), also known as the City of Decatur UDO, or Unified Development Ordinance. This UDO combines zoning, subdivision, environmental, and other regulations into a legally sound and enforceable document.
The first step in preparing the UDO was to understand which regulations needed to be updated and how to do so. The TSW Team first reviewed existing regulations for clarity, consistency, and content – particularly how well they supported the Strategic Plan – and developed a strategy for the UDO. Based on the direction provided by TSW and supported by public feedback, it was determined that 95% of the UDO would be a technical effort to reformat and clean up existing regulations, but would be 5% content changes requiring a public conversation in the following areas:
- Options for creating new zoning districts and amending existing ones to align with the Plan’s housing and mixed-use goals
- Options for significant revisions to post-development stormwater regulations
- Options for how to preserve community character, including discussion on historic districts, expanded design standards, and demolition delay
- Options for integrating sustainability into all aspects of the UDO
The team also developed an outline of the new UDO showing where the revised content would go, and how existing and new text would be seamlessly combined into a single user-friendly document. This City of Decatur Unified Development Ordinance was adopted in November 2014 and went into effect in February 2015. The UDO’s goal is to provide a comprehensive, legally sound and enforceable document that guides the city’s development in a way that aligns with its community-based vision for a sustainable future. This UDO is a critical tool for the city to ensure that new development is consistent with the community’s overall goals and objectives. The City of Decatur UDO is an essential document that helps the city to achieve its goals of environmental, social and economic sustainability while ensuring that new development is consistent with the community’s overall goals and objectives.