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LDC Update Takes First Steps: Early ideas presented for testing, refinement

On Friday night, November 18, Susan Henderson of the PlaceMakers consulting team presented themes that emerged from a four-day public workshop that kicked off the process to update the Town of Marana’s key instrument for guiding future growth: The Land Development Code (LDC).


Download and review Henderson’s presentation here.


The workshop was a way for the PlaceMakers consultants, Town elected officials, staff and citizens to assure, first of all, that everyone was on the same pages regarding the LDC’s goals, then to begin exploring together strategies to achieve those goals. This is just the beginning of a process that is expected to continue with additional public critiques and draft refinements over many coming months.

And here’s a video context-setter featuring Town staff:


 

Taking on the challenge

ldc-sealHenderson’s Friday night summary of initial ideas could be organized under three principal goals: Capture opportunity, preserve our lifestyle, simplify the process.

It’s clear from Marana’s meteoric growth over the last decade or so that lots of things are working well for current and prospective residents. So preserving and enhancing the lifestyle amenities that attract and hold so many folks here has to be a key principle for defining rules for future growth. “Life is good here,” Henderson told the audience Friday night. “Let’s not mess it up.”

Nevertheless, growth brings opportunities, as well as challenges. And the Town needs to position itself to take advantage of those opportunities. While protecting current development patterns that satisfy the demands of many prospective residents, the Code should also enable additional options likely to attract other market segments in the years to come, such as those that prioritize more walkable, mixed-use environments.

Regardless of whether rules address current patterns or future options, they should be easy to understand and apply. That requires regulations written in common language, rather than text that requires attorneys and engineers to interpret. It means eliminating redundancies and simplifying regulatory categories, perhaps cutting the number of separate zoning districts in half. And it calls for processes that get from early plans to implementation in predictable ways — provided, of course, plans comply with the community’s intentions.

During the four days leading into the Friday night wrap-up, the team heard from citizens, real estate development professionals, farmers and those concerned with protecting the environment. You can read summaries of those meetings here. And as ideas are refined in the days to come, you’ll see more about ways in which the updated Code might more efficiently integrate priorities for managing storm water, streets, parking and different ways of getting around.
 

More options, more choices

Among new forms of development to consider are ones related to property owned by the Town and designated for an emerging Downtown. There are precedents for more urbanized civic and mixed-use spaces that have grown up in communities in this region and in the world over. (Click image for larger view.)

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The idea is to use the Town’s property and targeted investments in infrastructure to create an inviting context for private developers to feel confident enough in Marana’s intentions and support to invest their own resources. Here, for instance, are three potential options for providing such a catalyst: A parking plaza; a civic square; or a linear plaza. (Click image for larger view.)

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And to take one of those options a step farther, here are illustrations offering a bird’s eye view and a street level view of the parking plaza option. In this case, the Town provides infrastructure for an arcade fronting a metal structure suitable for an outdoor market or festival, plus a versatile parking area/plaza. As market trends permit, private developers can acquire parcels from the Town to begin expanding the footprint of a Downtown with additional workplace, retail and residential options.

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Such environments — downtown or other areas that might materialize over time — serve as destinations and places in which to linger and spend time. That’s something that requires comfortable streets where people can walk around safely, so the LDC update also includes recommendations for additional types of streets — where traffic is slower and walking more pleasurable — to complement the existing street types currently allowed.

 
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For a review of how the four-day workshop built to the concluding Friday-night presentation, check out the posts immediately preceding this one. And for a look at the foundational documents that prepared the way for the LDC update, go here.


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