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Zoning Guide

Zoning provides municipal-wide regulation and guidance to the community and to developers on the physical appearance of buildings and what types of activities are allowed in buildings.

Below you can find several strategies to design a zoning code that promotes transit usage and active transportation.

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How and why does the RTA support zoning code updates?

Through its Community Planning program, the RTA offers planning assistance to help municipalities envision a style of development near transit services, called Transit-Oriented Development (“TOD”), which frequently results in the need to make zoning code improvements and updates.

TOD supportive zoning promotes walkable communities, residential and employment density, and active lifestyles. These qualities increase transit usage, which helps the RTA plan for adequate, accessible, and equitable public transportation for the six counties of Northeastern Illinois.

The RTA supports municipalities’ code amendments, helping them identify code improvements that will allow the type and style of development envisioned in their plan.

For more information, check out our 2021 Transportation Tuesday webinar on zoning. 

Should your municipality make substantial or incremental zoning code improvements, or both? It is up to you?

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Substantial Improvements

One of the most effective and holistic methods to encourage TOD is through a complete revision of the zoning code. For example, the RTA supported the Village of Brookfield with a substantial code modernization effort.

Ask your community:

  • What is the intent of the change to the zoning code?
  • How will the zoning code be organized?

Make sure that you:

  • Provide maps of where the proposed changes apply.
  • Establish districts that delineate TOD opportunities.
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Incremental Improvements

Many municipalities take an incremental approach towards zoning code revisions by adding TOD elements to their existing zoning code. This has the benefit of being easier to enact, but municipalities need to ensure that the new elements do not conflict with existing zoning regulations. Some strategies include:

  • Creating an Overlay district (Village of Bartlett)
    • Applies in addition to, not instead of, existing zoning code
    • Important to have key subareas
    • Regulate buildings, design process
  • Form-based code
    • Design Guidelines (Village of Olympia Fields)
    • Emphasizes street relationship, multiple approaches requiring building design to be attractive in all directions, proper scaling

What are the Components of TOD Zoning Codes?

Yard and Bulk
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How Do Communities Incentivize TOD?

TOD zoning codes can include incentives for specific development types that promote an active transportation lifestyle and increase transit ridership. Here are a few examples:

Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) Increases

Permitted FAR can be increased in TOD areas. This allows greater usage of high demand lots, providing additional development space.

Parking Maximums

Low-vehicle-owning households and transit usage can be incentivized by limiting the required number of parking spaces in these districts. Read more in the TOD Guide on Parking.

Increased Density

TOD zoning can also relax minimum unit size requirements. This can permit additional units of different sizes that may not be reflected in current mark.

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