Indy Rezone
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Updating codes to be more sustainable, more livable.

Indy Rezone starts with the premise that the built environment impacts a wide variety of issues and behaviors. Currently, the development regulations and zoning ordinances that govern Indianapolis yield a result that the community, in general, is unsatisfied with and the city can no longer sustain. While zoning cannot solve all of the problems a mature city encounters, how a community decides to build its physical environment establishes the foundation.

Public works dollars are significant and important in the shaping of a community’s environment, yet a more significant investment is the billions of dollars of development that occurs on private land and how that private land relates to the public land.

Drafting the code

After the efforts of the technical taskforces and the neighborhood invigoration initiatives were concluded, the ideas, opinions, and direction was used to craft the zoning ordinance. This product was called the Integrated Working Draft. The Integrated Working Draft was sent for comments to all the technical taskforces and steering committee as well as numerous focus groups throughout the community. The comments, suggestions, and issues raised resulted in changes. The result of the changes became the public draft which was presented to the public for comment and review at the Public Reveal in June 2014. After incorporating the public comment, a final draft was prepared for consideration by the Metropolitan Development Commission.

Change is a good thing

The draft represents thousands of changes, however several accomplishments merit highlighting.
  1. Change in Perspective
    The body of work truly reflects a future-focused approach – embracing a future that is notably different than the last 50 years (e.g. mixed use, transit oriented, renewable energy, quality development standards, commitment to water resources, etc.).
    Changes reflect a multi-departmental view:
    • Philosophical shift inside city departments toward collaboration; finding seeds of commonality among various missions (seeds were planted as part of the holistic nature of Indy Rezone’s discussions)
    • Departments now use some similar standards/lists/definitions (e.g. approved plants); the community gets one answer
    • “Green Factor” approach is the embodiment of zoning and drainage coming together
    • Researched and learned from other communities extracting and adapting the best practices to fit Indianapolis
  2. Walkability / Bikeability
    Importance: Walkability with great access leads to fewer vehicle miles traveled (good for environment and cost of living); gets people outside and increases safety and personal fitness
    Indy Rezone changes: In addition to new sidewalk requirements in 2008, requires connections from new residential neighborhoods to desired destinations (nearby commercial areas or streets); requires new bike facilities; reduces the amount of parking (‘right fitting’) as well as where parking is located on a site (‘right locating’) to promote walkability; requires visible entrance features in new MU districts
  3. Parking
    Importance: Desire to reduce the amount of impervious surfaces because of the direct impact on our water quality and quantity; affects a major part of a developed site and cost of a site – by right-fitting the parking requirements, the amount of land needed and the amount of money needed is reduced (contributes to the economic sustainability of our community); by right-fitting and right-locating, we increase the aesthetic value and safety of walking
    Indy Rezone changes: Changes where parking can be located as well as how much is required and how it is landscaped; eliminates parking requirements on small lots (under 5000 sq. ft.); establishes maximums and if maximums are exceeded, requires use of pervious materials; requires electric vehicle charging stations on lots with more than 200 spaces; allows for reduced required parking minimums if electric vehicle space and stations are provided, or if additional bike parking is provided, or if parking is within ¼ mile of transit; allows on-street parking and parking that is shared with another use to count toward parking minimums
  4. Flooding
    Importance: Minimizing the impact of  flooding is a major aspect of long-term livability and sustainability for a community that is relatively flat area with a lot of waterways; degree of floodplain regulation affects Community Rating System and therefore insurance rates
    Indy Rezone changes: Strengthens the provisions needed to mitigate flood impacts when development occurs in an area that is regularly flooded; mitigation provisions include required offsets and water storage; also prohibits the development of critical facilities in a floodplain
  5. Stream corridors
    Importance: Protection of stream corridors directly affects our water quality and the aesthetics of our neighborhoods; our waterways are very important amenities – account for two-thirds of our drinking water, support urban wildlife, and provide recreational assets
    Indy Rezone changes: Increases the protected area surrounding all mapped streams and waterways by requiring “buffering” and limits new development in buffer zones; allows new buffer requirements will be considered part of the open space requirements and therefore can work to fulfill the new “green factor” landscaping requirements
  6. Low-Impact Development (LID)
    Importance: Water is a critical resource that requires thoughtful management – gone are the days of considering stormwater as a ‘waste stream’, rather it is seen as an asset to recharge local aquifers and support natural amenities. Standard retention ponds have become the bane of urban landscapes as they concentrate pollutants, attract nuisance wildlife, create public safety concerns, and can negatively impact downstream water quality; LID strategies harness stormwater allowing it to aid in the aesthetic appeal of new neighborhoods; LID amenities add new dimensions to neighborhoods; vegetative, infiltrative stormwater techniques are a more sustainable approach to stormwater management since they help purify and clean urban runoff water as well as recharge underlying aquifers.
    Indy Rezone changes: Requires LID techniques be used in new subdivisions (commercial, residential, industrial); coordination of stormwater management features with landscaping features through the use of the Green Factor scoring tool.
  7. Wellfield Protection
    Importance: Although a very small portion of our city’s land area is designated wellfield, roughly 30% of our drinking water comes from wells/groundwater; many industries require clean and ample water to thrive; once groundwater is polluted it is extremely expensive and sometimes impossible to clean up; a quality water supply is essential to the physical and economic sustainability of our community
    Indy Rezone changes: Prohibits new underground storage tanks from being located in wellfield districts; prohibiting bulk storage of chemicals including petroleum in our wellfield districts; imposes new limitations on how some uses can operate in the wellfield districts.
  8. Green Factor
    Importance: The Green Factor is a scoring system technique that enables a site designer to ‘score’ the design of their site for its ‘greenness’. As a tool it allows the user to consider how various combinations of landscaping and stormwater drainage choices can work together to fulfill both such requirements; the tool (Green Factor) incentivizes low impact development techniques via assignment of additional ‘points’ when both objectives (landscaping and stormwater management) are fulfilled. It enables a site designer flexibility about where drainage facilities are placed; it encourages designers to make the landscaping functional for drainage, as well as aesthetically pleasing in order to increase the value of the site in a more holistic manner; it helps ensure better water quality is achieved as well as a more natural way of controlling stormwater quantities leaving a site; it helps people see dual-benefit using green techniques (i.e. the same land can be used for two things, requiring less land and cost savings)
    Indy Rezone changes: Introduces a new tool into the plan submittal and review process; changes landscaping requirements from simply placement vegetation on a site to a more integrated functional landscape; a minimum Green Factor value has been established for non-single-family development
  9. Trees & Landscaping
    Importance: Trees provide incredible value to communities – they help mitigate air and water pollution, provide an aesthetic benefit, save on energy costs, reduce crime, capture stormwater and reduce flooding, increase property values, slow traffic, increase the longevity of street pavements through shade, and reduce the heat island effect – they are the ultimate multi-taskers.
    Indy Rezone changes: Requires frontage trees on private land for new development; incentivizes the preservation of trees via the Green Factor scoring system; establishes a preferred tree species list as well as a prohibited list; requires preservation of Heritage trees (big, native trees)
  10. Renewable Energy
    Importance: 87% of our energy in Indiana comes from burning coal, which is a non-renewable resource with significant environmental impacts; long-term security requires us to develop alternatives; enhancing energy sustainability is critical; alternative energy structure and/or infrastructure can be either accessory on a small-scale or large-scale as the sole use of a site
    Indy Rezone changes: Explicitly authorizes renewable energy devices in a wide range of zoning districts as a primary or accessory use
  11. Safety
    Importance: The built environment can either encourage or discourage crime and therefore affect crime rates; a sustainable and livable environment is one that is safe, and the built space can affect the perception and actual incidence of crime
    Indy Rezone changes: Addresses lighting requirements for new development; establishes window transparency requirements in commercial and mixed-use districts to increase the “eyes on the street”/ “natural surveillance”; trees and landscaping requirements encourage preservation of trees which tends to increases the level of ownership and walkability of areas which further enhances natural surveillance; changes to street design standards for new developments are meant to slow down traffic so that neighborhoods are safer; low-impact-development requirements effectively put landscaping around water features which increase safety for children; changes to some use-specific standards to require safety features (i.e. cash registers must be visible from front window)
  12. Transit-Ready
    Importance: Decreases vehicle miles traveled, reduces commute time, and dependence upon cars; creates positive economic and environmental impacts by adding resiliency, promoting higher density development in key areas to support transit, requires less land, increasing incidences of people walking and riding bikes
    Indy Rezone changes: Provides the opportunity in our mixed-use districts for higher intensity development to occur; secondary dwelling units (i.e. carriage house) offer an opportunity to increase the number of people close to transit; reduction in parking requirements encourages alternative modes of transportation; required bike facilities; incentivizes private development of transit support facilities (e.g. stops and shelters)
  13. Urban Design
    Importance: See above for trees and parking benefits; Reducing setbacks brings buildings closer to street making it walkable, more aesthetically pleasing; good urban design weaves together a number of factors in terms of the development of a site, including location of parking, location of building, landscaping and how they relate to the street and sidewalks; reducing setbacks make places more inviting and therefore more walkable/livable leading it to become more economically resilient long-term
    Indy Rezone changes: See parking and trees changes above; Reduces setbacks significantly in ‘compact’ area and adjusts some setbacks requirements in metro area;  establishes some ‘form’ standards/architectural design in the mixed-use districts
  14. Mixed use
    Importance: Adds to the efficient combination of where you live, work, shop, play – potentially all in one location reducing vehicle miles traveled, reduces commute time; promotes walking/biking, increases leisure time and quality of life; provides long-term adaptability of the built environment and economic resiliency
    Indy Rezone changes: Creates new Mixed Use (MU) districts (MU3 and MU4) and enhances two of existing districts, changing them from C2 and C3C to MU1 and MU2, respectively; facilitates mixed use in free-standing facility, along a corridor, or as a node/village; allows for incidental commercial support facilities inside multi-family buildings (e.g. laundry pickup, convenience market, hair and body care/salon, coffee shop, etc.)
  15. Personal Livestock & Gardens
    Importance: Improves sustainability by allowing people to grow their own food; positive economic impact and healthier diet
    Indy Rezone changes: Allows community gardens in nearly all districts as well as personal livestock with single family detached homes; establishes safe protocols for community gardens, and addresses personal livestock
  16. Code Structure
    Importance: Unified framework makes all of the elements/concepts more useable for the public and developers; helps with consistency, understanding, enforcement, and efficiency
    Indy Rezone changes: Consolidates over a dozen ordinances into one ordinance with four chapters; consolidated districts; simplifies permitted uses from 578 to 150 by combining like things; makes definitions consistent; makes standards easy to find and links them clearly to uses
  17. How new neighborhoods will be developed (LID, stream buffers, safety, connection/sidewalks, streets & lighting, and open space)
    Importance: See above topics on LID, stream buffers, safety, and connection/sidewalks. Lighting, street layout and open space also impacts the overall safety, traffic patterns, recreational opportunities, and long-term vitality of neighborhoods
    Indy Rezone changes: See other topics advancements above - LID, stream buffers, safety, and connection/sidewalks. In addition to those – Restricts the length of cul-de-sacs streets; limits the length of blocks; requires at least two points of entry into a subdivision; adds new lighting requirements; adjusts surety requirement to insure all improvements are provided; changes the open space requirements
  18. Redevelopment Opportunities
    Importance: Redevelopment is an efficient use of land; reuse of existing sites and buildings limit the need for new infrastructure (providing cost savings and conservation of resources); past development strategies have extended our infrastructure way beyond our economic means to support it, therefore it is critical to incentivize the redevelopment of our existing areas; reuse and redevelopment provides work opportunities closer to home; by providing for redevelopment we reduce vehicle miles traveled, increases affordability, and decrease the ever increasing amount of impervious surface as its associated negative impacts; mixed use and green industries are growing in popularity and demand
    Indy Rezone changes: Expands where some permitted uses are allowed; introduces the vacant structure (“V”) provision that allows certain additional uses in certain districts if the building has been vacant for more than 5 years; eliminates parking requirements on small lots (under 5000 sq. ft.); acknowledges artisan food/beverage manufacturers and allows them into non-industrial districts; allows for mixed use and green industries which add opportunity for entrepreneurs
  19. Grandfathering
    Importance: Grandfathering protects what is already there as legally established; allows people to maintain their current conditions reducing stress and hardship
    Indy Rezone changes: Allows lawful existing uses to persist and acknowledges that they are legal; allows single family residences to be reconstructed if the structure is destroyed; will not require retrofitting or repurposing to meet the new standards except in the MU3 and MU4 districts; new parking standards are only triggered when a specified increase in demand is 15% or more
  20. Our Neighborhoods / Location and Housing
    Importance: Acknowledging that our neighbors are different is important because people like variety and choices when it comes to housing; we need to maintain a variety of choices for all; we need regulations that maintain and celebrate our differences and create more choices
    Indy Rezone changes: Recognizes that our suburban neighborhoods are not the same as our older, urban neighborhoods and therefore developed a Compact and Metro Context map to distinguish between these types of areas and apply different standards to them; adds a fuller suite of housing types (secondary dwelling units, triplexes, fourplexes, single family attached/townhomes) which has previously been ignored in past; requires no-step entrance for new housing
  21. Gravel, Sand, and Borrow
    Importance: Development always requires natural resources – how we extract those resources and use them and the resulting environment matters in how we efficiently use the land and protect our resources for long-term sustainability; the extraction of gravel, sand and borrow is important for basic development, but when left unregulated can leave us with a harsh environment. If adequate precautions and standards are applied, the resulting environment can yield a pleasant redevelopment opportunity
    Indy Rezone changes: Significant rewrite of existing code; establishes minimum buffer and transition strips around the mining areas; establishes appropriate extraction and blasting protocols; regulates topsoil removal, storage and replacement; considered revegetation of the site as well as appropriate mitigation efforts to protect our water sources; updates bonding requirements.

Draft is ready for adoption!


Short Summary



Background Information




More good works 

Office of Sustainability