A UDO is a legal document that combines the traditional zoning and subdivision ordinances, along with other desired regulations such as design guidelines or drainage standards into one comprehensive document. Lebanon adopted its UDO on December 10, 2007. It was amended on November 10, 2015.
The purpose of the Lebanon UDO is to protect the rights of individual property owners while promoting the general welfare of the City. Lebanon uses a zoning map to divide the City into different districts in order to locate specific land uses where they are most appropriate, thereby protecting property values and ensuring the health, safety, and general welfare of the City. In determining the most appropriate zoning designations, the City must consider such things as public utility availability, road access, and the existing or established development pattern of an area in which development is proposed.
When a comprehensive plan is updated, it’s best to review the UDO to determine if any changes are needed. Additionally, zoning ordinances and UDOs have continued to evolve over the years in response to the following: technological advances; the need for more flexibility in development; changes in demographics; lack of attainable housing; multi-modal transportation options; changes in economic development financing and restructuring; emphasis on authentic place; and changes in communications.
Given the time that has passed since the last significant amendment to the UDO and the adoption of this new comprehensive plan, Lebanon should undertake a comprehensive review and make the necessary changes to bring the UDO in line with the comprehensive plan.
Some changes the City should consider include:
- Go Digital: The City’s comprehensive plan has been moved to a website instead of a traditional print or pdf document. The advances in desktop publishing and online services have made it more advantageous to communities to take their UDOs digital. At a minimum, Lebanon should update its UDO document to be hyperlinked within a pdf document to create easier access to different sections in the document and easily find cross references throughout the UDO. The long-term goal would be to integrate the UDO into an online service or website-based document.
- Create A Lean & Streamlined Ordinance: The City’s current ordinance is more than 400 pages. It can be found on the City’s website under the planning department page; however, it is divided into individual chapter PDF’s. There is redundancy in the UDO, and many different chapters that, if reorganized, would make the document easier to use. Some of the reorganization and consolidation recommendations include:
- Move the administration section to the end of the document.
- Change Chapter 9 to “Processes and Procedures” and move the “Planned Unit Development (PUD)” chapter into that chapter so it’s all together.
- Create a matrix that lists all processes and indicate the roles of each body. This should include roles of staff, Technical Advisory Committee, Plan Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Common Council.
- Move the overlay districts into the zoning districts chapter.
- Create a preface to the zoning districts chapter that discusses base zoning districts, overlay districts and any special districts.
- Chapter 7: Development Standards, contains all the major elements that are typically of importance to applicants and developers. Therefore, these should be reorganized and split into different chapters for ease of use, including a chapter on Use Regulations & Standards (see point “d.” below), Dimensional Standards (see point “e.” below), Universal Standards, Development Standards, Natural Resources & Environmental Standards, Parking and Loading Standards, and Sign Standards.
There are longer term items the City should consider:
- Take each zoning district and reduce to a one–page format. Permitted and conditional uses do not need to be listed with each district and in the use matrix.
- Incorporate more photos, illustrations, graphics, tables, and charts into the UDO.
- Simplify language. A good ordinance has common language and is clear enough to allow two or more readers of reasonable intellect to reach the same conclusions regarding requirements and processes.
- Many ordinances today regulate land uses via use specific standards. This allows more uses to be allowed in more districts as long as the necessary conditions are met. This cuts down on sending petitions to the Board of Zoning appeals and streamlines the process to be more efficient and quicker to obtain a permit. This also allows a community to more effectively manage uses that may have more impacts on traffic, incompatibility with adjacent uses, parking, or access.
- Update the use matrix by broadening the uses and eliminating very specific uses. For example, Lebanon’s use matrix has the following categories professional services, retail/wholesale, food sales & services, and personal services. These categories could be reorganized to include Commercial, Institutional, Lodging, Recreation. Then the uses could be broader because many of the uses in the categories have very similar impacts and therefore does not need to be broken down in as much detail. For example, there is very little difference in impacts between the categories above. Instead uses can be listed more generally under the commercial heading, such as office, personal services, retail store, restaurant with drive-in or drive-through and restaurant without drive-in or drive-through. Just these uses listed above would decrease the size and simplify Lebanon’s use table, especially since the impacts of each of these uses would already be identified and addressed in a use specific standards chapter.
- Create provisions that allow modifications that can be approved by staff. Adding these provisions into the UDO will allow flexibility, reduce time in the process, and allows the Plan Commission to focus on more important issues than minor details that can be addressed by staff.
- Review the number of residential districts and see if some of these could be simplified.
- Determine if there truly is a need for the planned business commercial / planned business office / planned business industrial districts. The intent of these districts is not any different than the vision for Lebanon and other corresponding commercial or industrial districts. The requirement for higher design features could be incorporated into a development standard chapter with incentives for higher design elements.
- Incorporate current rulings for state and federal cases (i.e. small cell wireless, Reed vs. Gilbert Supreme Court case related to signs)
- Update parking and loading standards, and incorporate elements for parking flexibility, parking studies, and access management.
- Develop standards to promote infill development within downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Avoid Legal Pitfalls: Good ordinances contain reasonable standards that are easy to interpret and administer. They do not single out uses or areas without appropriate justification. Good ordinances are current with existing laws and court decisions. In the current ordinance, there are instances where specific uses are treated differently for no apparent reason, and some regulations do not seem to have a defined purpose. Still others are very subjective without clear criteria. Difficult and conflicting language within various sections of the ordinance make the current ordinance hard to administer and enforce.
- Add in provisions that promote and allow flexibility: With any ordinance, there is a balance between being predictable and being flexible. The ordinance should enforce Lebanon’s updated vision and goals while balancing predictability and consistency. The current UDO does not allow reasonable flexibility and creativity to achieve the intent of the vision and in some cases over–regulates certain issues. Additionally, the current UDO was designed to facilitate greenfield development and does not provide the flexibility needed to facilitate redevelopment on infill sites.