So, I asked yesterday what people might be interested in seeing as blog topics. The first comment I got was a suggestion that I discuss why various areas of the City are zoned various ways. This is a great idea, and I will do maybe an extra blog a week focusing on areas/neighborhoods around the City and cover the history and development of the land uses in that area.
In preparation for these blog entries, I thought I'd give an overview of zoning in Dover. Zoning as a land use tool has been in prevalence in the United States since the early 1920s. In Dover the tool was first adopted in 1948. Prior to that set of regulations there was very little guidance for land use development in the City.
The first zoning leaflet, yes it is pretty simple, defined different zones, or areas of land use, as well as outlined the uses and restrictions for these areas. Overtime things evolve, and the same occurred in Dover. Sometimes there have been tweaks, sometimes there have been wholesale overhauls.
The first overhaul was in the early 1960s. In 1964, the map was redrawn and new districts were created to be more refined in their differences in housing types and commercial areas. We begin to see the neighborhood commercial areas, such as the area along Central Avenue, opposite the Pine Hill Cemetery, the area along Dover Point, along the west side of the Spaulding, and other commercial nodes develop.
In 1967 a revision, which I am on the fence about it either being a tweak or a substantial change, occurred where the densities were reviewed. My guess is that this was a reaction to the building boom that occurred after World Ward II and the development of the Pease Air Force Base. The Country was shifting at that point into a very strong single family home mentality, and a move was made to lessen density and remove the ability to have a two family unit in every residential district.
The 1970s saw some tweaks and some proposed changes that never came about, but ended with a (zoning) bang. 1979 is seen as the watershed year for zoning amendments in Dover. The whole zoning code was reviewed, section by section, and revamped. Some sections changed subtly and others were stricken totally. The order of the chapter was adjusted and many changes occurred on the zoning map as well. Most significantly was the removal of the agriculture district. What we now see as the rural residential district took its place. Also, at this time we get many of the zoning district names we now use.
Again the 1980s saw some tweaks and adjustments. The 1990s saw upgrades to the commercial districts, and further definition of what type of non-residential growth the community saw it self developing. The area off upper Sixth Street was rezoned in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The 1990s started off the same with some tweaks.
In 1998 the City finalized an update the land use chapter of our Master Plan, and this generated some discussion for changes in 2000 and 2002. In fact the amendments in 2002 were as comprehensive as those in 1979. This was the first zoning process I was involved with and I recall many meetings to review our options for rezoning areas as well as updating the code and refining areas. Overall over 40 proposed amendments were enacted in the early aughts.
In 2004, in what was considered a tweak, the City clarified that agriculture was not only allowed in many residential districts, but should be allowed in some of the commercial/industrial districts. From 2004 forward there has been more land where agricultural uses are allowed than prior to 1979.
In 2008, after another update to the land use chapter, the process began anew. This time we took a look at the code from three angles. We wanted to embrace a more mixed use culture in land use, and looked to loosen up the segregation of uses that zoning typically adheres to. Also, we wanted to review the four zones that existed in the downtown area. The result was the development of the form based code based current central business district. The final angle was to look at the code from a user standpoint and look for areas we could slim down and make more accessible to the end user. We removed 17 pages of text from the code, and adjusted the format to be more readable and accessible.
Finally, in 2009 we began the process we still follow of reaching out to the public at quarterly public hearings, and to the various land use boards annually, to seek advice and suggestions of areas that we might consider for review. The Planning Board then prioritizes those areas and we review them over the first portion of the year and seek for adoption over the latter portion of the year.
So, that in a nutshell is zoning in Dover. As I said, over the coming weeks, I will expound on areas of the City and give an overview of changes and be more detailed. I think this will be fun and interesting. I hope you agree.