Design levels could be implemented, in part, by late spring, Duke says

As early as next spring developers eyeing projects along the Government Street corridor could be subject to new zoning codes that aim to more efficiently implement and convey regulations, according to city-parish Planning Director Frank Duke.

Duke is championing a revamp of the city-parish zoning code that would clean up the language of 13 special design districts and would create new rules governing five levels of city density, from urban to rural.

On Government Street, a new design level would not deviate from the intent of special codes meant to guide development, Duke says, but it would make allowances for items left out of the current code, like outdoor seating areas at restaurants and cafés and certain signage changes. Duke says there are three establishments that wish to install outdoor seating, but can’t under current code.

Duke says the planning commission staff is working with the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance to have new Government Street codes in place next year. MCRA Director Sam Sanders was not available for comment before this afternoon’s deadline.

With changes, developers would more easily be able to interpret code, too, Duke says. Current code urges developers to “consider” certain features, which is problematic because the word “consider” is not legally enforceable language.

“If I’m a developer, I look at this and say, ‘What do I have to do? That’s a huge unknown,’ and I’m going to walk away,” Duke says.

The Planning Commission is set to take up an initial resolution to begin the implementation process at its December meeting to send to the Metro Council in January. Duke initially hoped to get a resolution to the council this fall, but the date had to be pushed back as adjustments were made to consider public comments the commission received.

See a draft of the design levels, as well as a draft map of where each level would apply. Duke says the map is subject to change as the commission works with more regions of the city regarding which level is appropriate for each area. —Kelly Connelly

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