Designing Planned Communities
Designing Planned Communities
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“Designing Planned Communities is a clear statement of the design issues that are critical to creating livable and well-designed planned communities. Professor Mandelker draws on his long experience with planned community and land use regulation to explain the meaning of good design for planned communities. He shows how design concepts for planned communities can be translated into effective design guidance by local governments. Examples of design standards are provided from comprehensive plans, design guidelines, design manuals, and planned community regulations. Throughout Designing Planned Communities, the reader is taken through the complex problems of design regulation to an effective design program that can create planned communities in which we want to live.

Planners and lawyers will be interested in what Mandelker has to say about the design issues facing a growing number of planned communities throughout the country. Planning and local government attorneys will find the information about the legality of innovative design plans most interesting and helpful. Mandelker provides examples of localities that have experimented with a variety of design approaches and explores case law that will have an impact on these innovations.”

—Michael Allan Wolf, Professor & Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law, University of Florida, Fredric G. Levin College of Law

Most planned communities are a compositional form that defines their development structure. They became popular because of development problems that arose under traditional zoning and subdivision regulations, which did not originally include this concept. The zoning ordinance regulates land uses and lot sizes. The subdivision ordinance regulates street and block layouts and requires developers to provide public infrastructure, such as streets, sewers and other utilities. There is a gap here. Neither ordinance gives designers nor developers the flexibility to design a planned community that includes common open space, resource protection, and better and varied design. Worse, these ordinances penalize the developer who seeks to provide open space or the preservation natural resource areas. Variety in design was not possible because statutes required uses to be uniform within zoning districts. This meant that lot sizes and site requirements had to be uniform for each development project because each was located in a single zoning district. Mixed-use developments were not possible except by creating a different zoning for each section of a development, which is impracticable. Developers then adopted economic models for their developments that required building to minimum zoning and subdivision standards and provided residential projects with uniform lot sizes and site features. This approach created a monotonous style called “cookie-cutter development” in popular criticism. Planned communities appeared as an alternative that would allow local governments to achieve objectives they could not achieve under traditional land use regulation, such as better and more varied design, though these terms are difficult to define. Form-based zoning codes and other innovations, such as conservation subdivisions, have also helped to modernize traditional zoning and subdivision controls, but they do not allow the flexibility and comprehensive review of development projects that are possible under planned community regulations.
Daniel R. Mandelker is the Stamper Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches Land Use Law. His publications include a Planning Advisory Service Report on Planned Unit Developments, a treatise on Land Use Law and a law school casebook, Planning and Control of Land Development.

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