Zachary officials and residents heard from a planning firm hired by the city to rewrite the development code, which governs planning and zoning matters, at a workshop Monday evening.

“The code right now is very cumbersome,” said Fred Neal, of the Villavaso and Associates planning firm. “It’s long. It’s hard to navigate. There’s not a lot of clarity.”

The firm is tackling changes to the document — which ultimately will have to be approved by the city council — in stages. On Monday, the topic was rules for commercial establishments.

Zachary currently has two commercial zoning classifications: commercial suburban, which applies to small shops, cafes and offices that blend in with nearby residential areas, and commercial general, which is for larger businesses that draw in lots of customers and stay open later at night.

Villavaso and Associates is proposing to rename commercial suburban to commercial neighborhood and to create a third category called commercial corridor.

“The idea is that you really need a middle level of commercial,” Neal said, adding that it would give the council another option to consider on rezoning requests.

The firm is only suggesting updates to the text of the code right now.

“We’ve got to get the rules in place” before redrawing any zoning maps, said Steve Villavaso, of the firm.

Other possible changes discussed Monday include adding “uses” to the code — that is, listing more types of businesses that qualify for certain zonings. The goal is to stop having to ask the council for so many conditional use permits for businesses that fall in gray areas of the current code.

The firm is still working on revisions to sections of the code dealing with landscaping, signage, administrative processes and residential developments. Villavaso and Neal also are trying to simplify complicated tables and fix formatting issues in the document.

“Probably by the beginning of next year, we’ll have the entire UDC (unified development code) on the table,” Villavaso said.

Public feedback on the update process is invited, he said. Questions and concerns can be directed to Villavaso at (504) 343-9096 or; Neal at (225) 803-3836 or; or city planning director Marlon Lemond at (225) 654-1935 or