Land development code

Council Reviews Downtown LDC Draft: Download and comment now

The Town Council met for a Study Session on January 9 to review the downtown portion of the draft Land Development Code (LDC).

Jamsheed Mehta, the Interim Town Manager, introduced the draft document to Council, focusing on Downtown and Mixed Use Zones and noting that the earliest vote on the document would be in March. If adopted, the code would help realize Council’s stated objectives for downtown, including creating local character and developing an identity for the town center. The Town’s adopted long range plans all call for this land use upgrade, to enable the vision of the community.

The downtown LDC serves a market segment that the Town is missing — a walkable main street. Places that have adopted similar laws that enable walkable neighborhoods have experienced significant economic development. With the first infrastructure phase of Marana Main Street and roundabout underway now, enabling land use is the next step.

Today’s portion of the LDC is part of an overall revision to the LDC, which will rezone everything in town except for the specific plans. Initial LDC meetings with landowners and the development community have been positive.

Frank Cassidy, the Town Attorney, got into more details on the workings of the proposed land development code for Downtown and Mixed Use Zones. The code is an optional overlay zone that creates an extra choice for any downtown landowner to opt in. Because of Prop 207, no change in property rights will be made without any property owner’s written consent.

Specifications for the two newly proposed zones, Downtown (DT) and Downtown Neighborhood (DN) are dimensional things – like heights and setbacks – and if the developers meet it, there is no argument. It’s giving the developer the express service that otherwise would take months.

This version of the code is an initial draft, so the Council study session was a time to give feedback and ask questions. Council recommended that the code proceed to Planning Commission, at the next regularly scheduled meeting on January 31, at 6:30 p.m.

For an overview of the whole process, go here. To provide feedback on this draft code, go here.

LDC Recommendations Report Now Available

A Marana Land Development Code (LDC) Recommendations Report is now available for review and includes an outline of the new code. Access it here:

Review the report online here.

The report is guided by community input from the November workshop, and includes a project overview, current policy direction, and what we’ve learned. It points out key opportunities to improve the code in terms of format and graphics, administration, flexibility, market responsiveness, and best practices. The proposed solutions include a brief introduction to the rewrite, annotated outline, next steps, timeline, downtown ideas, and references.

The code writing is underway, with a first draft expected this summer. After giving time for public review, community workshops will offer a time for feedback to make sure we heard you correctly. This ongoing community feedback will be incorporated into a second draft, expected in late 2017. Check back here, where updates will be posted as they are available.


If you need to get up to speed on the background for the code update, here is a good starting point. And you can follow each step in the process by perusing the diary updates preceding this one. They’re in reverse chronological order.

LDC Update Takes First Steps: Early ideas presented for testing, refinement

On Friday night, November 18, Susan Henderson of the PlaceMakers consulting team presented themes that emerged from a four-day public workshop that kicked off the process to update the Town of Marana’s key instrument for guiding future growth: The Land Development Code (LDC).

Download and review Henderson’s presentation here.

The workshop was a way for the PlaceMakers consultants, Town elected officials, staff and citizens to assure, first of all, that everyone was on the same pages regarding the LDC’s goals, then to begin exploring together strategies to achieve those goals. This is just the beginning of a process that is expected to continue with additional public critiques and draft refinements over many coming months.

And here’s a video context-setter featuring Town staff:

Taking on the challenge

Henderson’s Friday night summary of initial ideas could be organized under three principal goals: Capture opportunity, preserve our lifestyle, simplify the process.

It’s clear from Marana’s meteoric growth over the last decade or so that lots of things are working well for current and prospective residents. So preserving and enhancing the lifestyle amenities that attract and hold so many folks here has to be a key principle for defining rules for future growth. “Life is good here,” Henderson told the audience Friday night. “Let’s not mess it up.”

Nevertheless, growth brings opportunities, as well as challenges. And the Town needs to position itself to take advantage of those opportunities. While protecting current development patterns that satisfy the demands of many prospective residents, the Code should also enable additional options likely to attract other market segments in the years to come, such as those that prioritize more walkable, mixed-use environments.

Regardless of whether rules address current patterns or future options, they should be easy to understand and apply. That requires regulations written in common language, rather than text that requires attorneys and engineers to interpret. It means eliminating redundancies and simplifying regulatory categories, perhaps cutting the number of separate zoning districts in half. And it calls for processes that get from early plans to implementation in predictable ways — provided, of course, plans comply with the community’s intentions.

During the four days leading into the Friday night wrap-up, the team heard from citizens, real estate development professionals, farmers and those concerned with protecting the environment. And as ideas are refined in the days to come, you’ll see more about ways in which the updated Code might more efficiently integrate priorities for managing storm water, streets, parking and different ways of getting around.

More options, more choices

Among new forms of development to consider are ones related to property owned by the Town and designated for an emerging Downtown. There are precedents for more urbanized civic and mixed-use spaces that have grown up in communities in this region and in the world over. (Click image for larger view.)

The idea is to use the Town’s property and targeted investments in infrastructure to create an inviting context for private developers to feel confident enough in Marana’s intentions and support to invest their own resources. Here, for instance, are three potential options for providing such a catalyst: A parking plaza; a civic square; or a linear plaza. (Click image for larger view.)

The idea is to use the Town’s property and targeted investments in infrastructure to create an inviting context for private developers to feel confident enough in Marana’s intentions and support to invest their own resources. Here, for instance, are three potential options for providing such a catalyst: A parking plaza; a civic square; or a linear plaza. (Click image for larger view.)

And to take one of those options a step farther, here are illustrations offering a bird’s eye view and a street level view of the parking plaza option. In this case, the Town provides infrastructure for an arcade fronting a metal structure suitable for an outdoor market or festival, plus a versatile parking area/plaza. As market trends permit, private developers can acquire parcels from the Town to begin expanding the footprint of a Downtown with additional workplace, retail and residential options.

Such environments — downtown or other areas that might materialize over time — serve as destinations and places in which to linger and spend time. That’s something that requires comfortable streets where people can walk around safely, so the LDC update also includes recommendations for additional types of streets — where traffic is slower and walking more pleasurable — to complement the existing street types currently allowed.

For a review of how the four-day workshop built to the concluding Friday-night presentation, check out the closing presentation

Time to Review Initial LDC Ideas: Friday, Nov. 18, at Town Hall

After four days of listening to citizens’ hopes and concerns, we’re ready to preview potential recommendations for updating Marana’s Land Development Code.

The presentation and community critique will be Friday evening, November 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. More schedule details are here. And here’s how it plays out:

We’re at the beginning stage of the Code rewrite, a process that is scheduled to wrap in May of 2017. (Click image below for larger view.)

During this week’s workshop, we began with a Tuesday check-in to confirm support for the foundational documents of Marana’s vision, the General Plan and the Strategic Plan. That’s an important step because everything we’re doing to update the Land Development Code (LDC) is designed to more efficiently enable the goals in those Plans.

On Wednesday, in public discussion groups focusing on the environment, farming, business issues, and neighborhood concerns, we drilled down more deeply into those topics.

Taking that input, together with the broad goals from Marana’s two foundational Plans, we assembled the first round of emerging LDC recommendations. And at our Thursday open house meetings, we tested those ideas with folks who dropped by to check out the work in progress. (Click image below for larger view.)

Next steps

All that leads us to Friday evening, when we’ll present additional details within our emerging framework. And assuming they meet with the community’s approval, the process will continue.

But again, remember: We remain at an early stage of drafting the Land Development Code update. There will be plenty of opportunities over the next few months to clarify and refine the recommendations. But your participation at Friday’s wrap-up will help us test initial ideas. So please join us for the presentation and discussion.

Day 2 Check-In: LDC thinking so far

We’re one day away from presenting draft recommendations towards an update of Marana’s Land Use Development Code (LDC). Here’s where we are in the process (click for larger view):

Among the takeaways from meetings with Town officials and citizens over the first two days of our four-day workshop are these priorities:

  • Keep it simple: Rules should be clear enough for everyone to know what’s expected of them.
  • Recognize realities: The code should make it easy to do what the vision endorses and what are already considered good practices.
  • Aim for a balance between flexibility and predictability: Rules should be flexible enough to adapt to shifting realities (like the real estate market), yet precise enough to build confidence in ways future development plans are likely to unfold.

In Wednesday meetings with citizens interested in business development, agriculture, environmental issues, and neighborhood concerns, the team drilled more deeply into community hopes and concerns. How might an updated LDC address some of those issues? Here’s a video sample of what we heard from those representing the interests of farmers and builders and developers:

For the new land development rules to enjoy long-range success, it’s clear they must recognize the rural farming traditions and suburban land use patterns that have contributed to Marana’s appeal while, at the same time, enable new approaches that make the most of the opportunities growth provides. The idea is to add choices for new development patterns — like options for a more compact, walkable, mixed-use development scheme in the designated Downtown area — without inhibiting popular suburban options or strategies for open space conservation.

During open houses on Thursday, the consulting team will discuss ideas for achieving that kind of balance. Go here to see the schedule for the work-in-progress reviews on Thursday and for the concluding discussion on Friday evening that will incorporate community feedback.

Please join us in person if you can. But if your schedule conflicts with these participation opportunities, you can keep up with the project’s process on this website and comment or ask questions online.

LDC Workshop Kicks Off: Building on Marana’s vision

First task for the consulting team assisting the Town of Marana with the update of its Land Development Code (LDC): Make sure the goals outlined in the Town’s Strategic Plan and General Plan still reflect the Town’s vision for how to grow into the future.

So on the opening night of the four-day LDC workshop on Tuesday, November 15, PlaceMakers project manager Susan Henderson explained the LDC update process and tested previous plans’ priorities with an informal survey. The overarching question:

Can we assume at the workshop’s outset a consensus for creating new tools for guiding a broader range of development options, especially in the area designated as Marana’s new Downtown?

A keypad survey of some 50 attendees at the workshop opener, including Town Council members and Planning and Zoning Commissioners, is by no means a scientific poll. Still, poll results suggest priorities for the LDC rewrite remain in line with vision elements that emerged from the General and Strategic Plans. No surprises.

View and download the evening’s presentation here, and the results of the polling exercise here.

With basic assumptions affirmed, the remainder of the four-day workshop can explore a broad range of design and coding strategies consistent with the community vision. On Wednesday, November 16, there are four public meetings intended to better inform the team on challenges and opportunities related to commerce, agricultural heritage, neighborhood development and the environment. For details about meeting schedules, both for today and throughout the week, go here.

By Friday evening’s closing presentation, we should be well on our way to a consensus for the framework of the new LDC. Town Manager Gilbert Davidson explains the importance of the process and how it will guide Marana’s future growth:

We’d love to have you at the public meetings planned throughout the week. But if you can’t attend in person, follow progress on these web pages. We’ll be posting reports of the previous day’s events through Saturday, November 19.

LDC Workshop Kicks Off November 15: Come join the conversation

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, at a Town Council work session, we begin an important community discussion that will lead to an update of Marana’s Land Development Code.

It happens 6:00-7:00 p.m. at Marana Town Hall, 11555 W. Civic Center Drive and is open to all.

The session caps Day One of the town’s four-day workshop to affirm goals for our Development Code and test ideas for its latest update. Answers to the most common what, why and how questions about the process are here. And for a look at the opportunities to participate, check out the schedule here.

It’s important that all relevant perspectives are represented. So the four days are arranged to present, critique, present again and critique some more until a potential regulatory framework begins to emerge. By Friday night, Nov. 18, we’ll have key components of the update to review after a summary of the week by project team leaders.

Of course, we realize that few people are able to break away from day-to-day responsibilities to attend all the sessions scheduled in the week. You’re encouraged to use the schedule overview to pick the meetings that suit your interests and keep you plugged into the process.

If you can’t make it in person, keep checking back here on the website. We’ll be reporting on the previous day’s activities in diary posts like this one from Wednesday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 19. You can ask questions and comment online, as well, by going here.

Looking forward to seeing you on November 15 and beyond.