Turk File

UDC Gets Green Light

by Walter Pierce

Approved by the council in early May, the Unified Development Code goes into effect in December; in the meantime, residents will have the opportunity to challenge new zoning rules.

Four years in the making, the Unified Development Code cleared its final hurdle May 5 when the City- Parish Council by a 5-3 vote gave the new zoning codes its seal of approval.

The UDC represents an overhaul of the city’s development regulations, written with an eye toward streamlining Byzantine rules and simplifying the process through which developers must go in order to do their jobs.

“The things we say we want, let’s make them easy to do,” Chief Development Offi cer Carlee Alm-LaBar told council members on April 21 when the UDC was before the panel as an introductory ordinance. Alm-LaBar explained that where the UDC doesn’t mandate certain types of development — mixed-use, high-density for example — it encourages and incentivizes such developments.

The code was developed jointly by the consulting fi rm White and Smith, a subconsultant to WRT for the comprehensive plan, and Architects Southwest.

The UDC Steering Committee comprised 15 professionals representing various industries, including developers, lawyers, home builders and real estate interests. It began meeting in December 2013 and included regular representation from four LCG departments: Planning, Zoning & Development; Public Works, LUS; and Legal.

PlanLafayette, AKA the comprehensive plan, was adopted by the planning commission in June 2014 and approved by the council a month later.

The UDC was adopted by planning in March of this year.

Dozens of public presentations and workshops were held in the interim that included civic clubs and trade groups affected by changes brought on by the UDC as well as a council briefing in October of last year.

“We like to tell folks that this has been coming down as the first major implementation item of the comprehensive plan since 2011,” Alm-LaBar added at that April 21 meeting.

Still, the CDO’s assurances did little to assuage the concerns of Lafayette’s south-side tea party loyalists, about 20 of whom — with the backing of councilmen Jared Bellard, Andy Naquin and William Theriot — urged the council to defer approval of the code before the fi nal vote on May 5.

Naquin moved to defer for 60 days, but the council shot it down. Bellard moved to defer for a month, but the council voted that down, too.

The UDC comprises a host of new zoning regulations, policies and classifications, replacing in some cases zoning codes that had been on the books for decades but bore little applicability to modern Lafayette, supporters say, who add that the new code is more “businessfriendly” thanks to input from the real estate development community.

Alm-LaBar stressed on April 21 that the UDC doesn’t pile on many new regulations; rather, in many cases it simplifi es them: “We’re not highly regulated, and we didn’t want to change that with the code.”

With the May 5 passage, the UDC is now subject to a 120-day period during which residents, developers, business owners — anyone living or working in the city and thereby subject to the code — can study it, question it and possibly get changes made to zoning classifications that apply to them.

“In converting the zoning to the new districts we did an apples-to-apples comparison,” LaBar added.

Following the 120-day period currently under way, the UDC will be subject to a 90-day analysis, with possible tweaks made to the code before it becomes the development law of the land on Dec. 7 of this year.