In 2010 Decatur completed a 10-year update to its Strategic Plan (led by TSW), which defined a community-based vision for its future and provided steps for the City to take to achieve it. During the planning process, discussion often focused on growth and development in context of a desire for the community to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainability. 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. For the Plan to be truly realized, it was determined that the City’s development regulations must change. 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) combining 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; and
- 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. The UDO was adopted in November 2014 and was made effective February 2015.