Zoning Committee considers parking, landscaping, and signage regulations - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Zoning Committee considers parking, landscaping, and signage regulations

With the recent passage of the fourth of five Modules, the final scenes in Chicago’s historic rewrite of its 45-year-old zoning code are playing out at City Hall.

On Sept. 25, 2003, the Zoning Committee held a hearing on the fourth of five modules that constitute the new ordinance.  Module 4 introduces draft regulations for parking and loading, landscaping and screening, and signage.  The Committee's key recommendations include:

  • Neighborhood Off-Street Parking.  Raise the ratio of one parking space per single family house to two parking spaces, and require 1.5 spaces per unit for multi-unit buildings (i.e., a two-flat would have three parking spaces).  
  • Landscaping and Screening.  Include regulations that specifically apply to car washes and gas stations.
  • Signage.  For signs on buildings, limit size to 3 square feet in neighborhoods and 5 square feet for higher-intensity uses in non-residential areas (e.g., auto sales and manufacturing zones).  For freestanding signs, the suggested maximum height is 25 feet.  Flashing and video display signs should be limited in size to 25 percent of maximum allowable area and be banned where they will be a distraction to drivers or affect the character of historic, lakefront, and residential areas. 

MPC supports the Zoning Committee's recommendation limiting the sizes of signs. 

At the hearing, the Metropolitan Planning Council testified in support of the Commission’s recommendations that parking ratios be raised where on-site open space would not be affected. MPC testified that a one space per unit ratio should be maintained where additional parking would encroach upon open space.  This recommendation is consistent with MPC’s research in Chicago neighborhoods.

MPC also supported the Commission’s call for shared parking arrangements, minimum bicycle parking standards and additional landscape standards for gas stations and car washes.  MPC suggested one major change to Module 4: high-rise rooftop signs be banned in the Central Area, with the exception of hotels and hospitals, and signs for other uses be limited in height to 25 feet.  For MPC's complete testimony on Module 4, click here . 

All modules are held in the Zoning Committee until the fifth and final module is complete.  At that time, the committee will transmit the ordinance in its entirety to the City Council for its consideration and approval.  Three modules have been approved by the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission and passed on to the Zoning Committee:

  • Module 1 pertained to residential districts and park/open space districts; 
  • Module 2 covered business/commercial, manufacturing, transportation, planned manufacturing, and overlay districts; and 
  • Module 3 addressed planned developments, review and approval procedures, nonconforming buildings and lots, and enforcement and penalties.

The Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission is currently considering Module 5, which introduces specific zoning requirements for the downtown area. For more information on these Modules, click here.  For more information about MPC’s testimony contact Heather Campbell or Peter Skosey.

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