The Westminster City Council is ready to depart from traditional Colorado zoning practices with the creation of a new zoning category called a Specific Plan District (SPD), a powerful tool in the creation of a quaint, urban area Westminster citizens can call their own. A SPD regulates the look and feel of a development rather than land uses.
"Land uses evolve and change over time. It’s really more important to get the urban form right so that it doesn’t matter what the uses are in the buildings,” according to Mac Cummins, planning manager for the City of Westminster.
According to Cummins, an SPD differs from the more popular Colorado zoning practice of Planned Unit Development (PUD) in that it focuses on the physical interest of a neighborhood, using pictures to explain requirements and concepts. The more traditional PUD zoning relies on written descriptions, making it difficult to impart the City’s preferred visual and aesthetic wishes.
Cummins cited the traditional zoning systems in the United States as being designed to separate land uses from each other.
“In the old days, traditional zoning was designed to ensure buffering spaces between land uses. Today that trend has reversed, now people want to be next to differing land uses,” Cummins said.
He cites an example in typical suburban zoning as separating restaurants and offices from residential neighborhoods. Now, according to Cummins, people want to live next to those uses, a switch that is driving the emphasis on physical appeal of a building rather than what’s inside.
The Westminster Downtown Specific Plan is custom designed for the redevelopment of the 105 acre site that was once home to one of the most thriving retail malls in the Denver metro area. If adopted it would provide the regulatory framework that reflects the City Council’s ultimate vision of an urban center for Westminster. The plan was designed by Los Angeles urban planning firm Torti Gallas in conjunction with City of Westminster staff and their potential development partner, San Diego based OliverMcMillan.
Under the proposed specific plan, every land use allowed in the project is allowed in every on every block, which according to Cummins drives an urban form that creates the sense of place desired in Westminster.
The plan is slated for adoption by the Westminster City Council late this year.