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The UDC: Simplifying a City's Development Regulations

What’s a Unified Development Code?

These are two very good questions to which planners need to know answers in an effort to broaden our understanding of the options available to communities for land regulations.

A UDC or Unified Development Code is a collection of codes emphasizing zoning and subdivision regulations (such as sign, fence and other regulations). A UDC is a holistic glimpse at a city’s development regulations ensuring land regulations (including definitions) work in concert without conflicting, confusing or overlapping existing regulations and terminology. In other words, a UDC folds land regulations into one document organizing them into a concise, comprehensive format, which is why cities are implementing them more frequently.

What’s the Process?

Freese and Nichols is currently working with a municipal client to develop the city’s first UDC as a continuation of Freese and Nichols and the city’s partnership on the city’s newest Comprehensive Plan in 2010. City leaders are proactively planning the community’s future further and enlisted Freese and Nichols again with planning efforts continuing seamlessly into the development of the city’s UDC. Freese and Nichols is currently developing and reviewing UDC zoning regulations with city staff.  Because of our involvement in and familiarity with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the UDC process has proceeded seamlessly.

The process used for UDC development is important to its success. At Freese and Nichols, we begin UDCs with diagnostic reports (including stakeholder and developer interviews) to identify the existing codes that need updating and determine how to incorporate recommendations from Comprehensive Plans. We present diagnostic reports to our clients where we secure approval before we draft the actual UDC. A draft UDC is then approved by our client and submitted for public review. A typical UDC includes four sections: Provisions and Procedures, Zoning Regulations, Subdivision Regulations and Definitions.

Because the UDC is a collaboration between Freese and Nichols and our client, we use review opportunities to gather client and public input, which is incorporated into the draft we submit to the planning and zoning commission and city council for public hearing prior to adoption. Once the city has adopted the UDC, the city will have a new Comprehensive Plan and updated land development regulations that reflect their community. We believe our UDC success is a direct result of our intense development and revision process.

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