What are Land Development Regulations (LDRs)?


LDRs include a wide variety of procedures and standards for the subdivision, development and use of land. The development regulations in your community today will shape the viability of your community for decades and sometimes centuries to come, so their consistency with comprehensive plans is essential. Let Michael Lauer Planning help you review and adjust your regulations to help you ensure that development in your community will be a long-term asset that helps you achieve your community’s goals.

All development regulations should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that the procedures and standards facilitate the development patterns most desired by the community. Too often, development regulations inhibit or prohibit development patterns that create more livable, vital and sustainable communities, while fostering homogenous, cookie-cutter subdivisions and buildings with relatively short shelf-lives.

Subdivision Regulations

code-pagesSubdivision regulations govern the division of land into lots as well as the location, design and sometimes the funding public utilities (roads, water, sewer, stormwater management, electricity, gas and telecommunications). Depending on state law and local preferences, subdivision regulations may address the provision of infrastructure and/or funding for parks, recreation, libraries, public safety facilities and other community services. Subdivision procedures vary widely by location, but should address plat submittal requirements, notice and hearing requirements, phased developments, timing of installation and maintenance requirements for public improvements, development agreements, resubdivisions and amendments, review criteria, approval responsibilities and the duration of approvals. Finally, subdivision regulations implement zoning ordinances standards for lots, blocks, street connectivity and other elements affecting neighborhood character and mobility.

Zoning Regulations

Zoning regulations typically address the use and design of lots and parcels of land. Depending on location, they may address a wide variety of site and building development standards, which vary by zoning district.

Site Development Standards

Site development standards typically address lots, blocks, street connectivity, parking, landscaping, buffering, fencing, signage, access management, outdoor lighting and on-site pedestrian connections. These standards also address the interface between the public and private realms and facilitate the creation of complete streets and neighborhoods.

Form- or Design-Based Zoning

Form-based or design-based zoning focuses on the design, orientation, arrangement and relationships of buildings and site improvements with surrounding properties and the public realm. While typically not focused on any architectural style, these standards may address a variety of architectural features (roofs, entries, porches, windows and cornices) to create greater compatibility and better relationships between lots with varied uses or intensities of uses. For instance, form-based regulations can be used to create better access between a pedestrian/transit-oriented corridor and the businesses located along the corridor though standards affecting parking locations, setbacks, entrances, sidewalks, streetscaping and other design elements.

Zoning Ordinance Procedures

Zoning ordinance procedures must include the approval process, notice, hearing and review criteria for amending the zoning ordinance text or map, securing conditional approvals and ministerial actions.

Zoning District Standards

Zoning district standards should clearly convey their purposes, the uses allowed within the district by right or through special approvals and specific use standards, as well as site and building development standards.

Planned Development Districts

Planned development districts are one tool to allow greater flexibility for the uses, intensities and design of sites to enable creative developments that include a mix of uses and/or housing types, neighborhood amenities, better resource protection, alternative street designs and other design elements that, while not authorized under conventional zoning, lead to more resilient neighborhoods. Planned development districts usually involve better coordination between the subdivision and site development processes.

Conventional Building Development Standards

Conventional building development standards address the location (setbacks), height, bulk and intensity (residential density or non-residential floor-area ratios) of buildings. Communities increasingly are understanding the importance of the design and orientation of buildings and site improvements promote more compatible and resilient neighborhoods have begun to include design or form-based regulations (see next bullet) within their zoning or development codes.

Development Patterns

Development patterns are a useful way to guide mixed and single-use development in communities because they incorporate standards that foster the development of compatible neighborhoods and communities rather than homogenous subdivisions. The use of development patterns helps create more vibrant and resilient communities that are capable of withstanding changing socio-economic forces.

Zoning Districts

Zoning districts are used to create areas with compatible land uses and intensities of development. Most communities have several residential, commercial and industrial districts along with specialized districts addressing local needs such as institutions, mixed-use areas, agricultural areas and other community needs.

Overlay Standards

Overlay zones enable communities to tailor zoning regulations to the unique needs of special areas. Overlay zones which apply to corridors or neighborhoods that include more than one base district, such as floodplains, key street corridors, historic neighborhoods and redevelopment areas, apply additional standards to the underlying zoning districts to help achieve the overlay district goals.

Unified Development Codes

Unified development codes consolidate subdivision, zoning and other building and development regulations within a single document.  This consolidation eliminates the unnecessary gap between interrelated development processes and reduces the potential for conflicts. While it’s important to distinguish the legal authority for zoning, subdivision, building and environmental regulations within a unified development code, their consolidation can simplify and demystify the development process and help achieve more predictable outcomes.

Impact Fees

Impact fees, which are allowed in some form in most states are one-time capital fees to off-set the capital costs of development for public utilities and facilities.  These fees are particularly useful to fund off-site impacts. Because they are required to be proportionate and related to the impacts of the development being charged these fees, they are not considered taxes, but this also means there are limits on how the fees can be used.

Adequate Public Facilities (APF)

Adequate public facilities (APF) requirements can be an important tool to avoid the high costs of growth in areas of the community where facilities are not adequate to accommodate proposed growth. These regulations, which apply to new development that would create demand for unfunded infrastructure improvements enable a community to defer all or a portion of development until arrangements are made to cure the infrastructure deficiency through construction or funding of needed improvements. APF requirements are not subject to the strict proportionality requirements of impact fees.