The arcane and at-times cold zoning lingo spoken by planners, developers, city officials and even the well-informed neighbor could soon be replaced by a lexicon seemingly more user-friendly and upbeat.
“Single-family residential” morphs into “compact neighborhood,” a place with medium density, single-family residences speckled with live-work offices.
“It goes beyond zoning. Zoning just says what you can’t do. This says what you can do,” said John Fregonese, of the firm Fregonese and Associates, of Portland, Ore., and the lead consultant for the Future BR plan. “It includes the environment and the mixture of uses.”
The new Future BR plan, a 430-page rewrite of the city’s comprehensive development plan, outlines 17 different land use zones for Baton Rouge, which the plan refers to as “plan categories.” These zones stretch the possibilities from Downtown — the densest — to Industrial, which would include the large swath of Industrial zoned land north of downtown.
Unveiling the new land use categories, their descriptions and an explanation of how they will work within other parts of the Future BR plan, such as transportation modes, is the next step of a planning process more than 18 months in works. The “operational plan” was presented to the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission Tuesday afternoon and a community open house meeting in north Baton Rouge Tuesday evening.
An official unveiling is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Old State Capitol. The plan covers nine areas: Land Use; Urban Design and Neighborhoods; Transportation; Economic Development; Housing; Parks and Recreation; Environment and Conservation; Public Services and Intergovernmental Coordination; and Infrastructure.
After a series of open house meetings spread across Baton Rouge this summer, the next step in the process will be releasing a “strategy plan,” which outlines how to move the document from the page to reality.
“The mayor wants to hear from the public before he comes out with another plan,” Fregonese explained. “So I think he’s going to wait and see what happens at these open houses, what are people saying, and then we’ll use that to adjust the plan.”
Already, residents staring at the colored zoning maps laid out around the meeting room at the Coca-Cola bottling plant Tuesday couldn’t help but dream about how the Future BR plan and planning process would get them the kinds of neighborhoods they would like to live in.
Colleen Eames pointed to the a large gray mass representing Southern University and imagined a world where students could move easily through the area without having to get into cars.
“If all the people that are there, if they want to go to the movies, or any place, they have to find somebody to give them a ride,” she said.
James Gist III, who says he’s familiar with mass transit systems often found in big cities, added that a light rail line in Scotlandville could transform that neighborhood’s economic viability.
Scotlandville is generally bounded on the north by Blount Road and Scenic Highway; on the west by the Mississippi River; on the south by Harding Boulevard; and on the east by Elm Grove Garden Drive.
The Future BR transportation plan calls for 31 mass transit routes across the city, up from the 19 bus lines today, with high frequency lines on Plank Road and Scenic Highway, among other major streets. More frequent service could make getting to jobs and services even across town easier, Fregonese said.
“I think in North Baton Rouge, this could change peoples’ lives,” he added.
North Baton Rouge is traditionally bounded by Airline Highway on the north and east; the Mississippi River on the west; and Florida Boulevard on the south.