Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Post-Katrina Zoning Issues...

With the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the ambitious Mississippi Renewal Forum coming later this year, I've been following some of the forum's results more closely.  Several, such as the Katrina Cottage quickly gained attention while others never materialized.

One policy change that did result was the adoption of a SmartCode by the City of Gulfport.  Now, for full disclosure, I will say that I participated in the Forum (one of my best professional experiences ever) and have consulted with Gulfport.  

Nevertheless, I'm fascinated by the ebb and flow of things along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Gulfport in particular.  This includes the land use law proposals that have been implemented at various scales. 

There have been amended comp plans, modified subdivision regulations and new transect-based/form-based zoning codes like the one in Gulfport.  As with any area that underwent a huge challenge (I recall the massive, flattened destruction of the area after arriving within a month of the storm) just to get the basics up and running.  That's why its interesting and informative to observe, nearly a half-decade later, the real world use of the SmartCode in places like Gulfport.

This story discusses that.  One caveat, I strongly believe that in many cases frustrations with zoning reform have to do with the process rather than the actual new code.  Based on my experience, that is much of the case in this instance.

As I often mentioned to my students, a zoning code is simply a tool used to implement a vision--similar in many ways to how a hammer or saw is simply a tool to implement a house blueprint.  In my opinion, that's an important perspective in this case.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

p.s. The neighboring city of Biloxi is also taking an interesting step forward in zoning reform as we near the Katrina five year date. 


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