Over the past two decades, Decatur, Georgia, has met many of their smart growth objectives — mixed-use buildings fronting walkable sidewalks, consistent streetscape standards, and the like — through a careful manipulation of their Euclidean zoning code. Largely successful, these efforts have fostered considerable downtown development in line with community goals. But that said, conversations held during the city’s 2010 Strategic Planning sessions revealed a collective desire for further fine-tuning in some key regulatory areas. Most notably: parking, downtown/residential transitions, accessory dwellings, and urban agriculture.
The city approached the initiative carefully, making sure that new regulations emerged not from the top down, or from the outside via consultants, but from the bottom up, in the form of a citizen task force. Comprised of 11 members, representing all facets of business and residential interests, the task force met monthly — as both a full group and in individual, topic-specific subcommittees — to make recommendations in key areas.
Seven months into the year-long process, the task force was near consensus on basic approaches and metrics and had reached the point where outside professional assistance was in order. Ideas needed to be reality-checked against what other communities had successfully done, technical ideas needed to be explained to the community at large, and formal ordinance language needed to be crafted.
That’s when PlaceMakers entered the picture.
To assist the process, PlaceMakers worked directly with and for the task force, consulting on normative smart growth techniques such as shared and reduced parking, developing explanatory materials, producing videos posing specific questions to the community via Open City Hall, and writing the requisite ordinance adjustments in conjunction with the city’s attorney and its planning director, Amanda Thompson.
A sample illustrative display:
A sample video: