First Facelift Since ‘57--Chicago Officials Anxious to Use New Zoning Code - Metropolitan Planning Council

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First Facelift Since ‘57--Chicago Officials Anxious to Use New Zoning Code

City considers moving up effective date of zoning ordinance due to interest from aldermen who want to use the code.

After approving a new zoning code for the city of Chicago on May 26, 2004, the City Council is discussing the possibility of moving up the effective date of the code from November 1 to August 1 of 2004. The new code replaces the outdated 1957 code, which began racking up complaints from neighborhood groups during the building boom in the 1990s. The old code permitted buildings out of scale with their surroundings and even had Lincoln Park, the city’s most treasured open space, zoned for high-density residential development.

It took four long years, but the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission has brought the code up to modern standards. The new code reflects their efforts to go beyond a typical zoning ordinance (which, at the simplest level, dictates how large a building can be and where it must sit on the property), to adopting principles that address community character in Chicago’s neighborhoods. The new code protects Chicago’s best pedestrian-oriented shopping streets from drive-throughs and curb cuts. In struggling retail areas, it allows the market to decide whether the ground floor will be commercial or residential. The new code encourages affordable housing by requiring developers using the density bonus system in the downtown area to use the affordable housing density bonus first.

The new code is also easier to read than the lengthy, legalistic style of the 1957 code. The new code features illustrations to help decipher complex development regulations and is fully available via the Internet. Residents can find the code at http://www.cityofchicago.org/M ayor/Zoning/

Now that the text is complete and legally passed, however, the urgency shifts to the mapping process — that is, deciding where all of the new rules will apply in the neighborhoods. Neighborhood residents, in conjunction with their alderman, should begin discussing how the new code will impact their neighborhoods.

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