The City of Tucson’s current Land Use Code (LUC), which regulates land use and development, is infamous for being one of the most draconian in use. Adopted in 1995, it was flawed to begin with and time and continual addition of reactionary standards hasn’t helped. Figuring out what is allowed and required for development, and then cross-checking those requirements, takes more time than anything else. There entire code is riddled regulations that overlap, conflict, or parallel each other with different nuances.
Why does this matter? The current code wastes staff time and creates uncertainty for anyone developing or building in the City of Tucson. How can projects be successful when their starting point are always flawed?
To address these concerns, City staff has been working with their consultant, Clarion Associates, to simplify our byzantine document. I’ve been reviewing drafts of the new Unified Development Code on the Planning Commission, and it looks very promising.
Some of the highlights of the new Unified Development Code:
- Entire code is being reformatted to more modern and simplified format
- Regulations are being simplified and clarified
- More graphs, tables, and illustrations are being included to make it more user friendly
- The need for cross-checking is being minimized
- Confusing terms that mean the same thing have been consolidated, think “secondary use” and “accessory use”
- Terms that had different definitions, but were used as if they didn’t, are being redefined. An example is “zones” will now mean citywide regulations and “districts” will only apply to specific geographic areas
- All submittal requirements and fees are being moved to a new Administration Manual
- Engineering standards, historic design standards and other non-zoning development standards will all be consolidated in the Technical Manual
- All definitions have been consolidated and moved to the end of the UDC
The actual development standards within the new UDC will stay the same, although there will be some revisions and clarifications. This is the most critical part of the process, if you have a stake in it look at the draft now. The draft chapters are all online with staff comments. It’s a mammoth task and the more eyes on it the better. The staff is doing a great job so far and has been very open to comments.
The Planning Commission and the Land Use Code Committee are continuing to review the draft UDC while the City staff work on revisions with Clarion. The Planning Commission hearings on the final draft will be held the end of 2011, and Mayor and Council hearings sometime in spring of 2012. Due to Prop 207, the 2006 “Private Property Rights Protection Act” ballot initiative, implementation of the new code is a bit tricky. Once the UDC has been adopted by Mayor and Council, both the new code and old code will exist side-by-side for the next few years, allowing property owners to use either to reduce the chance of a Prop 207 complaint. The old LUC will be discontinued after several years.
Again, take a look at the draft Unified Development Code and let staff know if you have any thoughts or concerns.