Unified Development Code
The blue line delineates the Metropolitan Planning area. There are numerous unannexed areas inside the city limits, where residents pay double for some city services but escape other city taxes. They are a nightmare for emergency and law enforcement personnel.
Shreveport, like other cities across the country, is refashioning itself on a new model, one that encourages neighborhood retention and relies less heavily on speedy vehicular traffic throughout the entire larger community. It began with the creation and approval of a citywide master plan in 2012, extending to a perimeter up to five miles outside the city limits
Master plans are meaningless, though, without a method for implementing them. The Unified Development Code, currently being drafted, gives that direction. "It is intended to make clear to property owners or business entities what is expected for development, living in the plan area or opening a business. It creates predictability," said Dara Sanders, master plan administrator.
The city of Shreveport developed spontaneously, before a zoning code was written, but zoning does not necessarily reflect what already exists. Unfortunately, it encouraged automobile use at the expense of the city's neighborhoods.
According to the city's website, the master plan and UDC are intended to "protect the historic patterns of development that define the character of Shreveport/Caddo, direct investment to targeted growth areas, and create new opportunities for economic development, helping to make Shreveport/Caddo a more sustainable, livable and business-friendly community."
The master plan is written to encourage the development or redevelopment of neighborhoods "of choice" for housing and transportation. "Not everyone wants a yard," Sanders explained. A person will be able to stay in their neighborhood from childhood through all the stages of life, including senior living; the master plan looks at the generations that will eventually take their place in the community.
Local developers may be nervous about changing away from the system that has been in place, one that is already somewhat predictable for them. They are used to the current code, and don't work outside the immediate geographic area. The new code is more comparable to other development codes across the country, an important factor if Shreveport wants non-local businesses to invest in our city. At the same time, becoming used to a code more in line with nationwide standards puts local businesses on a "level playing field," more able to compete with companies outside the area for both local projects and those that may be further away, Sanders commented.
The code protects existing neighborhoods, making sure new developments complement the neighborhoods. Every property with the same use has the same set of requirements: all schools, for example, have the same type of requirements.
The consultants, from the planning and design firm Camiros of Chicago, have performed their research and made recommendations. "We're at the point where the fun begins," Sanders said. The first UDC draft will be available for community input by the end of the summer.
Attendees from any part of the city are welcome at any and all meetings. As the public examines the first draft, attendees give input on its pros and cons. The consultant team is to take that citizen input into consideration as it prepares a second draft. Then the public will examine the revised draft. Community input will determine changes that result in a final draft, presented in a single large public meeting, scheduled for the end of 2014.
But the UDC is still not complete. There are three more public hearings to follow, presented by the Metropolitan Planning Commission There may still be some changes to what has become the "desired draft," depending on what the MPC had heard in these last three meetings, scheduled to be finished by the July 15, 2015, to keep the code development project in its two-year allotted time frame.
Yet the UDC is still not law. It becomes law only after both city council and parish commission formally adopt it. Only the city council and parish commission can adopt planning and zoning changes.
By Lani Duke