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From Policy to Reality: Updated Model Ordinances for Sustainable Development

icon: Model ordinance (map)

First developed by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board in 2000, these model ordinances were updated and several new models were added by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2008.

  • Model ordinances for 17 topics are presented here, organized under the 5 GreenStep best practice categories. GreenStep best practice pages recommend specific model ordinances and reference this set.
  • Note: These are only models—good ideas for meeting sustainability goals. A city planner plays an important role, tailoring each model into a tool appropriate for a city's unique circumstances.
  • CR Planning (Minneapolis) was the primary consultant to the EQB and MPCA: please direct questions, comments and suggestions on these model ordinances to the GreenStep Cities Coordinator.


OTHER RESOURCES FOR DRAFTING ORDINANCES

SmartCode
A free, evolving model transect-based planning and zoning document based on environmental analysis. It addresses all scales of planning, from the region to the community to the block and building. The template is intended for local calibration to your town or neighborhood. As a form-based code, the SmartCode keeps settlements compact and rural lands open, literally reforming the sprawling patterns of separated-use zoning.

Neighborhood Development Floating Zone
Produced in 2012 by the U.S. Green Building Council and Pace Law School, this is a model ordinance designed to foster green community development using, as its basis, the LEED for Neighborhood Development performance standards. Cities may use this flexible zoning technique to incorporate LEED-ND sustainability standards in a single zoning district that has the standards as eligibility conditions and district regulations, which can be affixed to appropriate locations.

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments
Updated in 2013, this resource from the U.S. EPA is useful to cities in identifying and removing barriers to sustainable design and green building within their permitting processes. This toolkit addresses the codes/ordinances that would affect the design, construction, renovation, and operation and maintenance of a building and its immediate site. There are two sections to the toolkit: the first section includes an assessment tool (a simple questionnaire/checklist) and a resource guide. The second section is a guide to developing an action plan for implementing changes within a community's permitting processes.

Planning and Zoning for Solar Energy
As the nation's centers of electricity consumption, cities and counties are uniquely positioned to support economic growth, strengthen America's energy independence, and reduce pollution by converting to solar energy. Planners have important roles to play in making sure their communities' plans and land use regulations allow and encourage this clean, safe energy source. In 2011 the Planning Advisory Service of the American Planning Association prepared an extensive collection of sample ordinances on solar access, solar siting, and solar energy systems large and small, along with background articles and examples of how communities are adding solar provisions to their comprehensive plans.


Buildings and Lighting

Buildings and Lighting Energy Efficiency Ordinance   The energy efficiency ordinance provides examples of how to incorporate energy efficiency into development regulation and zoning, including setting incentives, setting energy efficiency standards for community participation in private sector development, and using energy efficiency certification programs in development regulation.

Landscaping and Maintenance of Vegetation   The landscaping ordinance is modeled on a typical nuisance ordinance, but distinguishes native plantings and other alternatives to turf grass, and defines edible landscaping as a substitute for lawns. The ordinance requires a plan, setbacks, and maintenance of native landscaping to address the nuisance concerns that typically accompany alternatives to turf.

Solar Energy Standards   The solar energy standards provide language to ensure that solar energy installations are an allowed accessory land use within the zoning code. The standards provide examples for mitigating aesthetic and safety concerns associated with some solar energy installations, and suggest development regulation incentives for encouraging solar energy development.

Land Use

Land Use Agriculture and Forest Protection District   The Agriculture and Forest Protection District provides language to protect the economic value of agricultural and forestry resources as a primary and preferred land use. The district is geared toward county and township areas, although the language can be used for cities that want to permanently protect these economic natural resources rather than simply maintaining an urban reserve.

Model Community Conservation Subdivision District   The conservation subdivision language applies the concepts of conservation design to a zoning district or subdivision ordinance. The model discusses how conservation design is a broad category of development ranging from very urban to very rural. This model provides an example of how conservation design principles meet conservation goals in one type of community; an exurban or agricultural area that is under development pressure.

Downtown Mixed-Use District   The DMU district provides basic language for creating a deliberately mixed use and dense development pattern geared to urban downtown areas.

Planned Unit Development Ordinance   The PUD ordinance is modeled after a typical suburban PUD ordinance and identifies how to incorporate sustainable development concepts such as protection of natural assets, energy efficiency and renewable energy, green buildings, state-of-the-art stormwater management and selectively increasing density.

Highway Commercial District   The Highway Commercial District demonstrates one example of preferred use standards and design concepts for highway commercial development.

Village Mixed Use District   The Village Mixed Use district provides basic language for creating a deliberately mixed use and higher density development pattern geared to very small towns, villages, hamlets, and townships that might not have centralized water or wastewater.

Natural Resources Performance Standards   The Natural Resource Performance standards provide examples of designing development around priority natural features, treating natural systems with the same attention as transportation or other built infrastructure. The standards show how local governments can integrate development with specific types of natural features or natural systems that are local priorities.

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance   The APF Ordinance provides language for ensuring that development at the edge of a city or urban area is appropriately staged, consistent with the city's infrastructure capacity and expansion plans.

Transportation

Transportation Design Standards for Pedestrian-Oriented Districts and Corridors   The pedestrian-oriented design standards identifies methods of incorporating pedestrian-friendly design into development regulations, and provides examples of pedestrian-friendly design.

Travel Demand Management Performance Standard   The Travel Demand Management ordinance provides language for requiring investment in and expansion of infrastructure supporting non-single-occupancy-vehicle travel options during the development process. The ordinance is geared to dense areas or larger cities.

Transit-Oriented Development   The TOD ordinance provides language for ensuring that development near transit infrastructure has an appropriate mix of land uses, sufficiently high density to support the public investment in transit infrastructure, and transit-friendly design of buildings and accessory uses.

Environmental Management

Environmental Management Natural Resources Performance Standards   The Natural Resource Performance standards provide examples of designing development around priority natural features, treating natural systems with the same attention as transportation or other built infrastructure. The standards show how local governments can integrate development with specific types of natural features or natural systems that are local priorities.

Stormwater and Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance   The stormwater and erosion control ordinance provides detailed language for integrating a stormwater ordinance with the 2009 Minnesota Construction General permit for stormwater management and erosion control. The ordinance links local standards to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Urban Stormwater Manual.

Landscaping and Maintenance of Vegetation   The landscaping ordinance is modeled on a typical nuisance ordinance, but distinguishes native plantings and other alternatives to turf grass, and defines edible landscaping as a substitute for lawns. The ordinance requires a plan, setbacks, and maintenance of native landscaping to address the nuisance concerns that typically accompany alternatives to turf.

Economic and Community Development

Economic and Community Development Agriculture and Forest Protection District   The Agriculture and Forest Protection District provides language to protect the economic value of agricultural and forestry resources as a primary and preferred land use. The district is geared toward county and township areas, although the language can be used for cities that want to permanently protect these economic natural resources rather than simply maintaining an urban reserve.

Solar Energy Standards   The solar energy standards provide language to ensure that solar energy installations are an allowed accessory land use within the zoning code. The standards provide examples for mitigating aesthetic and safety concerns associated with some solar energy installations, and suggest development regulation incentives for encouraging solar energy development.

Local Food Networks   The Local Foods ordinance focuses on land use standards that protect food production businesses in agricultural areas under development pressure. The ordinance is geared to suburban and ex-urban communities where residential development and small commercial agriculture occupy the same area.

Model Wind Energy   The Wind Energy ordinance provides language allowing capture of local wind energy resources while ensuring nuisances and community-wide risks are addressed. Language and concepts identify issues for large and small wind development in rural and more developed communities.