Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Planned Unit Developments (PUDs)

A planned unit development (PUD), is a type of building development and also a regulatory process. As a building development, it is a designed grouping of both varied and compatible land uses, such as housing, recreation, commercial centers, and industrial parks, all within one contained development or subdivision.

PUDs are generally liked by developers and landowners, and disliked by land planners and residents. Politicians are easily swayed by the economic arguments and respond slowly to citizen concerns.

Land and mobility planers as well as residents like to see stable, long range land use plans, while developers enjoy the flexibility of a PUD, and land owners can usually get more money for their land if it is to be turned into a PUD.

PUDs are basically custom designed land use with zoning specific only to the land that the PUD is created for. These disrupt long range planning of the land use in a geographic area. Like the area along Loop 360, PUDs now exist along the roadway disrupting the flow of transition zoning like large boulders in a stream. Moreover, as these PUDs are custom zoned, the only way one can see the zoning is to go back to the ordinance that created it.

Over longer time periods, maintenance of the zoning within the PUD is flexible and can be changed unless the citizens demand covenants written into the deed of the land.

As the PUD concept was originally described, to offset the potential damage to the community, a strict community improvement concept was included. “PUDs have not been recognized explicitly under state statutory law.  The establishment of any PUD must correspond with the general authority delegated to local governments by the state.  Thus, under Town Law for example, the PUD must "promot[e] the health, safety, morals, or the general welfare of the community" and it must be created "in accordance with a comprehensive plan”."

There are many variations as to how this concept was implemented. This is made very clear in the District of Columbia ordinance:

The planned unit development (PUD) process is designed to encourage high quality developments that provide public benefits. The overall goal is to permit flexibility of development and other incentives, such as increased building height and density; provided, that the project offers a commendable number or quality of public benefits and that it protects and advances the public health, safety, welfare, and convenience.

A comprehensive public review by the Zoning Commission of the specific development proposal is required in order to evaluate the public benefits offered in proportion to the flexibility or incentives requested and in order to establish a basis for long-term public control over the specific use and development of the property. While providing for greater flexibility in planning and design than may be possible under conventional zoning procedures, the PUD process shall not be used to circumvent the intent and purposes of the Zoning Regulations, nor to result in action that is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.”

An additional issue has been the passage of laws at the state level to give cities the ability to develop PUDs. In some states, the laws has been challenged and the community has won.

To read the entire article, click here.

Opinion: To fight the PUD, arguments will have to be made on the specific requirements for a PUD, and it's accordance with Austin's ordinances, charter, and state and federal law.

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