Form-Based Codes Institute at Smart Growth America

Raleigh Unified Development Ordinance

The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) was initiated in 2010 in response to several factors. First, the City of Raleigh adopted a new Comprehensive Plan in 2009 that sought to focus development in mixed-use nodes and along transit corridors. The 2030 Comprehensive Plan identified transit-supportive density, walkability, a human-scale public realm, and a greater integration of residential and commercial land uses as major goals for development in the City.

The previous Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1989, called for a more suburban approach that emphasized auto-centric thoroughfares lined with commercial uses. For the most part, residential uses were expected to be separated from commercial uses. The previous zoning code, commonly known as the Part 10 Code, was supportive of the old Plan in that the zoning districts typically did not allow a mix of uses. In commercial districts, the relationship between buildings and the street was not strongly regulated and allowed for site design that favored vehicular travel and parking fields in front of buildings. The Part 10 Code was not well-suited to support the implementation of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The UDO would provide the regulatory framework to enable and encourage the goals of the new Plan. The UDO replaced most commercial districts with mixed use districts that allow residential development and mixed use buildings. Another major change in the UDO is the use of building types, build-tos, and Frontages. In combination, these three elements enable the zoning to create a human-scale public space between the building and the street as well as enforcing design features on the building itself to improve pedestrian comfort. These design features include transparency and pedestrian entrances.

The second goal of the UDO was to make the zoning code easier to use. The name “Part 10 Code” is a reference to the location of the zoning code in the City’s Municode library. The incremental additions to the Part 10 Code over the course of its history led to a document that was somewhat disorganized. In addition, some development regulations were found in locations other than Part 10. For a developer trying to design a project, it was often difficult to locate all the applicable regulations and make sense of how they operate in combination.

The UDO placed nearly all development regulations, including review procedures, into a single document that was separate from the Municode library. The new document is an interactive, visually appealing electronic book with illustrations of many of the more complex standards.

Finally, the UDO made more review processes administrative as opposed to public review processes. While this change had the potential to be detrimental to site design, additional standards in the UDO related to form, height, and mixing of uses provide greater confidence that development under the code will provide appealing, coherent spaces that support the Comprehensive Plan goals.

To view the code, click here.

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