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Somerville City-Wide Zoning Overhaul

Client Challenge | Somerville had compiled a set of disorganized zoning regulations over the years that limited development and forced the most minor of additions to existing homes through a difficult approval process. Our challenge was figuring out how to navigate a major change to zoning in the densest city in New England, and address growth pressure and concerns related to rising costs and displacement.

Team Approach | Principle provided strategic and tactical support for the City’s planning department; tested the code at key development parcels and with various hypothetical development projects to provide key feedback on the codes metrics, functionality and structure; gave critical feedback and review at key stages of the proposed codes various drafts; produced illustrative renderings of all of the proposed code’s character districts and building types for inclusion in the code document; and facilitated the review of the proposed code by technical experts to determine the economic impact, fiscal impact, and market impacts of the proposed code. Our “By Design” process created a Vision Plan during the process and engaged the community with a robust action-oriented planning process that improved upon the charrette by integrating big-idea policy brainstorms and on-the-ground tactics.

Project Impact | The first public draft of the code was released in 2015. Over the course of 2016, a series of public workshops and hearings were held to address comments and public concerns. A second draft of the proposed code was released for public review in the Spring of 2017. Following a series of open house meetings in the Summer of 2017, the code is projected to go before the City’s Board of Alderman for adoption in the fall. The project is expected to provide Somerville with a responsive, fair, efficient, user-friendly, predictable and flexible system to regulate development across the city.

Location  
City of Somerville, Mass.

Client
City of Somerville

Year
2014–Present

Status
Union Square: Adopted 2017
City-Wide: Under review

Team
Principle

Disciplines
Urban Design
Planning
Zoning & Coding
Community Engagement
Public Process

More Info
www.somervillezoning.com

 

Principle provided strategic and tactical support for the City’s planning department, including our “By Design” process in which we engaged the community with a robust action-oriented planning process that improved upon a charrette by integrating big-idea policy brainstorms and on-the-ground tactics. 

 

 

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