Make your own free website on

Framework and Schedule for a Rezoning Process

FROM: Susan Schlesinger
DATE: September 22, 1997

In its recommendations related to the Pitkin PPetition, the Planning Board indicated support for many of the goals articulated in the petition. The Board also recognized the need for additional study and community process related to specific mechanisms proposed in the petition. The Board has divided the proposed study efforts into four time frames for action and we propose the following schedule:

I. Items for Short-Term Action (3-6 months)

Inclusionary zoning to create affordable housing

Public open space -- FAR changes

II. Items for Near-Term Action (6 months to 1 year)

Reduction in residential FAR in Residence A. B, and C-I zones

Flood Plain management mechanisms

Residential open space - changes in definition and amount required

III. Items for Medium-Term Action (12-18 months)

Transition and height zoning

IV. Items for Longer-Term Action (18 months to 2 years)

Reduction in FAR in commercial districts

There are two reasons for anticipating that certain items will take longer to resolve. First of all, issues which impact both the residential and business communities, such as zoning in transition areas and reduction of FAR in commercial zones to mitigate bulk and traffic, should be brought before both of those communities in a thoroughgoing way. This means more meetings and input from a greater number of individuals and groups in order to attempt to reach agreement.

Second, some of the issues are more complex technically and may benefit from additional study and evaluation. For example, with respect to FAR reductions in commercial districts to reduce traffic impacts, we know that communities around the country are developing performance-based zoning ordinances which address traffic congestion in a more direct way than reductions in FAR. Other techniques used to minimize congestion include encouraging density near transit stops while reducing parking requirements and including parking floor area in overall FAR calculation. These techniques and others need to be studied more closely and adapted to Cambridge conditions. Potential impacts of these. measures also need to be identified.

Finally, any action the Council may take tonight will affect this schedule. For example, if the Council decides not to take favorable action on the Planning Board recommendations, the Board and Community Development Department staff will have to evaluate whether additional public process is necessary or whether the Board will choose to submit recommendations without additional process.

We are recommending that an Advisory Committee be appointed by the City Manager consisting of representatives of the petitioners, other members of the residential community interested in zoning issues, and representatives of the business community. The Committee would work with the Community Development Department and its consultants to help determine process, timing and outreach for each issue.

A more detailed draft framework for a rezoning process is included in Appendix A. This framework is intended to be a starting point for discussion and may need to be revised based upon the following factors:

1. Extent of Public Outreach

The most important factor in determining a schedule and workplan is the amount of public input to be built into the project. Effective public policy is based upon input by affected parties. Some of the zoning changes under review, such as those affecting transition zones, impact all geographic areas of the city as well as residential and business interests. Therefore, the process crafted for this issue may involve public meetings throughout the city and before neighborhood and business groups.

2. Planning Board Schedule and Workload

While the Planning Board has met. every week in order to respond to the Pitkin Petition, the Board's regular schedule is to meet twice monthly throughout the year. In addition to addressing the Board's regular workload, over the next 6 months the Board and the Community Development Department are participating in the rezoning of the Grace Site in order to make a recommendation in advance of the expiration of the building moratorium in the IC-PUD zone in February 1998. The Board is also engaged in zone changes related to "anomalous" zoning districts in response to a Council Order.

3. Community Development Department Workplan

It is assumed that further analysis of proposed zoning measures will involve participation of the relevant Community Development Department staff. If the zoning analysis work remains on a "fast track," certain projects that were identified in the Department's budget goals may have to be slowed down. In addition, over the last several months the assistance of planning and urban design consultants has been extremely helpful in studying and illustrating graphically the impacts of zone changes, and generating suggestions regarding other methods that may achieve the goals articulated by the Petition in the most direct manner. Funds for these consultants must also be factored into the decision regarding schedule.

With these variables in mind, we have detailed in Appendix A, A general framework for public outreach, analysis, and action.

Appendix A - Sample Workplan

The table below outlines a sample workplan for a single rezoning item. Some items might involve somewhat less time if for instance, the Planning Board has already had substantial discussion on the issue. Some items may take somewhat longer if, for example, the complexity of the item requires significant research time.



Establish Advisory Committee


Work with Advisory Committee to develop process, timing and outreach issues.


Develop research and analysis of issue, working with consultants as needed.


Identify key stakeholders, including appropriate City and State agencies. Schedule and hold meetings with stakeholders, follow-up as needed. ...


Prepare for public meeting: Meet with Advisory Committee to discuss public presentation - format, timing, location, materials, public notice, new release. Develop materials for meeting.


Workshop to design program.


Prepare initial action drafts.


Meet with Advisory Committee. Prepare for follow-up public meeting(s) as required to establish consensus on direction of action.


Workshop to seek consensus.


Prepare for presentation of process results to Planning Board.


Planning Board discussion on possible amendment.


Prepare text of proposed amendment.


Planning Board Hearing and discussion.


Planning Board discussion and recommendation.


Planning Board approval of final recommendation.


Recommendation forwarded to City Council.


Ordinance Committee Heating presentation of-Amendment and public comment.


City Council Hearing


City Council vote