Understanding how a specific plan district works

One of the principal challenges of land use planning, especially in large cities such as Nashville, is harmonizing uses on adjacent plots. Very often, the uses on individual lots develops in different and frequently conflicting ways. Also, newer types of developments can create difficult conflicts in use between adjacent parcels. In order to facilitate flexible and compatible future development with existing land uses, the Nashville City Council in 2005 passed the Specific Plan (SP) District Ordinance, which created what are called specific plan districts. These districts can provide attractive incentives for developers interested in new styles of land development.

Definition of a specific plan district

A specific plan district is not subject to the standard requirements of the zoning ordinance concerning bulk regulations, such as height and size of buildings, setbacks, buffers, signage and construction materials. Instead, the developer submits a concept to the Metro Planning Commission that sets forth the intended uses, a description of existing conditions, a description of the consistency of the intended development with existing land uses on adjacent parcels. In other words, a specific plan district operates as an exception to the overall zoning code and zoning districts as set forth in the zoning map.

Benefits of creating a specific plan district

In creating a specific plan district, the developer works with the Metro Planning Commission to answer questions concerning proposed uses, the impact of uses on adjacent parcels, the need for transportation planning, and the like. The Metro Planning Commission can propose use restrictions that would not be permitted under the existing zoning code, and the developer can suggest departures from existing regulations that would facilitate construction of the project.

Creating a specific plan district can be a complex task, but the end result frequently provides significant benefits to the City, the adjacent parcels, and the developer. Anyone who may be interested in creating a special plan district should consult an experienced land use and real estate attorney for advice on the steps necessary to create such a district and obtain governmental approval for the plan.