Questions & Answers

What exactly is a zoning code?
A zoning code is a document containing rules that guide and direct the use of structures and land, and the form and location of structures in a manner that carries out the policies of a city’s Comprehensive Plan. It determines whether the design and use of neighboring buildings complement each other or conflict with each other. It determines whether the places that people live, work and play are clustered together or separated from each other. It determines the process through which change occurs and whether these changes happen in a manner equally transparent and predictable for the developers of land and residents of the neighborhoods in which they develop.

What difference can a zoning code make?
A new zoning code is essential to conserving the best of what we have while creating opportunities to grow our economy. One way to achieve this is to ensure that people who want to invest in our community know where they can locate, what the rules are, and that those rules are consistently and predictably applied.

Why change the rules now?
Zoning in Buffalo today, like many cities, is a patchwork of rules that, while well intended when written in 1951, are not well suited to maintaining desired types of existing development and redevelopment. There is often a disconnect between what people want to build and what can be built. This is, in part, because our present code was designed to encourage a rather uniform pattern of development. Many of its districts contain regulations that do not fit the development that presently exists or is desired. While it has undergone substantial amendment to improve that fit, these changes have made the code very complex, confusing, and hard to use. Many of the requirements remain vague and need clarification, and it still fails to accommodate certain traditional forms of development found in our older neighborhoods.

What are the goals of the Buffalo Green Code?

The Buffalo Green Code will implement smart growth standards that enhance the quality of life for city residents.

The new zoning code can encourage smart growth by:

- Eliminating or revising rules that unnecessarily hinder compact communities

- Creating incentives to encourage new development to exceed the standards

- Setting clear and objective minimum standards that require buildings, blocks, and streets to fit together into a cohesive sense of place

The Buffalo Green Code will encourage environmental and economic sustainability by encouraging more efficient use of energy and natural resources, minimizing the impact of human land uses, and promoting compatibility with local climate and environmental systems.

The new zoning code can encourage sustainable development by:

- Eliminating or revising rules that unnecessarily hinder environmentally sustainable development choices

- Creating incentives for sustainable design techniques that provide a community benefit, including renewable energy and water conservation

- Setting clear minimum standards that ensures proper site design, comfortable urban form, and walkable, transit-friendly streets

The Buffalo Green Code will be a tool to implement a place-based economic development strategy.

The new zoning code can encourage economic growth and job creation by:

- Eliminating or modifying rules that unnecessarily hinder the speed of investment decisions

- Setting clear and objective standards that make every developer a participant in making great places in which to live, work, and invest

- Creating the flexibility investors need to participate in a competitive and fast-changing global economy, including live/work, technology transfer, business incubation, urban agriculture, and other nontraditional forms of job creation

The Buffalo Green Code will provide a transparent and predictable process for development.

The new zoning code can encourage transparency and predictability by:

- Eliminating or modifying rules that are vague and confusing, with a shift away from complicated legal jargon toward a code built around simple language and graphic illustrations

- Setting clear and objective standards that make it easy for investors to build what the community wants

- Connecting the values and principles of the City’s existing plans to the zoning regulations that can give these plans “teeth”