City launches extensive rezoning initiative

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The city of Indianapolis has launched an initiative expected to result in the first major overhaul of its zoning and development regulations since 1969.

The nearly $2 million effort, named Indy Rezone, is being steered by city planners, private developers, elected officials, architects, community activists and others. Their task is to collect public input and draft a new set of regulations by March 2014.

The new regulations could alter parking space requirements and other details developers routinely contend with. They also could include incentives for green development and make it easier to include such features as solar panels and wind turbines.

Among the goals of the effort is to remove obstacles to development while at the same time encouraging projects that are more environmentally friendly and better suited to pedestrians and multiple modes of transportation.

John Neal, a senior planner for the Department of Metropolitan Development’s division of planning, said the changes could streamline the development process by, among other things, reducing the number of zoning classifications and the need for costly zoning variances.

The city now has 17 residential zoning classifications and 10 commercial ones, Neal said. And many of its regulations were written with suburban, car-dependent development in mind.

For example, current regulations in many of the city’s commercial districts require buildings to be constructed 80 to 100 feet from the right-of-way. To bring buildings up to the sidewalk, a characteristic often found in pedestrian-friendly areas, a developer must apply to the city for a variance of development standards. “In some parts of the city it might make sense to have smaller setbacks,” Neal said.

On the residential front, in many single-family neighborhoods around the city at least 65 percent of a residential lot must be maintained as open space. To build on more of the lot requires a zoning variance. It’s possible that such regulations are an impediment to reinvestment in those neighborhoods, Neal said.

The Indy Rezone Steering Committee is co-chaired by local commercial real estate broker Abbe Hohmann and Michael Bricker, founder of People for Urban Progress, a local not-for-profit that promotes and advances public transit, environmental awareness and urban design.

Its six task forces are organized around residential development, non-residential development, signs, wellfields, parking and streets, and process and administration.

Wes Podell, a Duke Realty executive who is a member of the non-residential task force, said Indy Rezone could result in a more competitive city. “A forward-looking, flexible code and simplified process will encourage developers and companies to make investments here,” Podell said in a written statement.  

Work on the Indy Rezone initiative has been going on behind the scenes for a couple of years. The city applied to the federal government’s Department of Housing & Urban Development in August 2010 for a Community Challenge Planning Grant to fund the effort. Indianapolis was among 43 cities chosen from among 583 applicants and began planning for the process in earnest in March 2011.

The $1.2 million grant is being matched by the cost of devoting several city employees to the effort over the next two years.

Once the new regulations are drafted, they’ll require approval by the Metropolitan Development Commission and the City-County Council and a signature from Mayor Ballard.

More information is available at indyrezone.org.



  • Nashville
    I am really hoping it will have some of the same qualities as Nashville, Tennessee's. They have done an excellent job at redefining their downtown zones and giving developers incentives to make livable and sustainable decisions.
  • Conspiracy Theories Are Old
    Joyce, Indianapolis would never become anything like NYC, even with a 50 billion dollars, all the zoning regulations in the world, and 50 years. New York City is as dense as it is because so many people and businesses want to locate there. Indianapolis will simply never have that demand. So, put the tired conspiracy theory to bed that somehow someone wants to make Indianapolis into NYC. Indianapolis should wish it was even 1/1000 as exciting, interesting, or cultured as NYC. Now, what you should focus on is how to make Indianapolis the best is can be for a largish city in a mid-sized Midwestern metro area. Redeveloping abandoned or underutilized areas is one way to improve the quality of life for everyone and increase economic activity in the city.
  • Joyce
    Small businesses should only dream of the marketability of a product in a denser urban setting. How do you justify a quality buisness location? IF it is simply cheap operating costs and expansive land, move to Kansas. If you need people and visability to drive sales, an increase in population density will certainly do that.
  • No Wind / Solar
    "They also could include incentives for green development and make it easier to include such features as solar panels and wind turbines." Please NO. Clear a block in the middle of the city for a MSR power plant instead. http://energyfromthorium.com
  • Zoning Review
    Well, I hope the purpose is to make redevelopment easier. I have my doubts, though. The only people we know will be vocal are the urbanites, who want to turn Indianapolis into NYC. If you are a small business owner in the city, please make them hear your ideas.
    • Small business
      Tyoical of the big business give money to the rich mentality. The variance and city planners blead the small businesses and lay down the red carpet for large developers. The city and the variance process is a long and tedious proposiition. It should be less expensive and more small business friendly. This attempt to clear up the city intrusion into this process is long overdue.
    • Bout Time
      Yes, it is about time! We have been behind the zoning times for most of the last 25-30 years, and this could be the effort to change it all...and especially allow for better and simpler to understand development, and development standards, without the almighty variance prohibiting expanded economic development!

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