The Bureau of Planning and Zoning is responsible for a variety of activities as it carries out its mission of providing direction for the future growth and development – and redevelopment of the city. On any given day, staff in the bureau can be working with a neighborhood group to resolve a particular issue or can be involved in the review of a major development proposal. In between those activities is time to do the analytical work that is generally associated with Planning, work that involves the collection and analysis of data that help tell the story about the current condition of the city and its people, and what challenges may lie ahead.
Well managed and healthy cities are the result of effective planning and decision making that takes into account the long term effects of those decisions and their potential impact on other aspects of the city. For example, a decision to build a new park or other community facility should consider not only the cost or the public's desire for the facility, but should also take into account the specific needs of the community it is intended to serve; its impact on the surrounding neighborhood; and the ability to provide for its upkeep and maintenance. Zoning and land use decisions must take into consideration the impact that certain land uses will have on the city's tax base as well as their impact on traffic, compatibility with surrounding areas and their impact on municipal services. The staff of the Bureau of Planning and Zoning, often working closely with other city bureaus help to make those determinations. All of the bureau's activities can be grouped into the following program categories:
Land Use Management
Historic District and Ordinance
Major areas of responsibility include Community and Economic Development Planning; Zoning Permitting and Enforcement; Land Development and Subdivision Plan Review; Historic Preservation, including the administration of the City’s Historic District Ordinance; and Neighborhood Planning and Coordination, including the implementation of the Weed and Seed Program.
Preparing and implementing the City’s Comprehensive Plan
is the cornerstone of the bureau’s activities. The Comprehensive Plan is the City’s statement of long term goals and objectives and provides direction for their achievement. The City’s latest Comprehensive Plan was adopted by City Council in 2009. Projects stemming from that plan are far reaching, ranging from participating in regional planning activities to working with community groups on specific issues or developing neighborhood improvement plans. The Comprehensive Plan provided the basis for the major revisions recently made to the City’s Zoning Ordinance and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and City-Wide Trail Master Plan. Most recently, the bureau has been collaborating with other departmental staff and economic development partner agencies in preparing a strategic plan for the City’s economic development activities.
A major part of the bureau’s on-going activities is the management and enforcement of the City’s Zoning Ordinance. In a typical year, the zoning staff will review and issue over 700 permits; process well over 100 appeals to the Zoning Hearing Board; while answering everyday questions as the counter or on the phone. Other significant ongoing activities include administering the City’s Historic District Ordinance where between 75 and 100 cases are presented to the Historic Architectural Review Board and managing the Subdivision and Land Development Review process.
At the present time some of the Bureau’s major projects include:
Lehigh River Waterfront Master Plan: With the assistance of a consulting team, the bureau will be coordinating the preparation of a master plan for the Lehigh River Waterfront area that will guide the redevelopment of this area, taking advantage of the amenity offered by the Lehigh River.
Arts District Streetscape Enhancements: The project provides for the design and construction of improvements to the streetscapes in City’s Downtown Arts District, initially focusing on the first block of N. 6th Street.
Old Allentown Streetscape Enhancements: This project builds upon the efforts of the Old Allentown Preservation Associations Elm Street program efforts. It will provide enhancements to sidewalk areas, initially focusing those improvements in the 900 block of Turner Street in front of the Old Allentown Cemetery.
Economic Development Strategic Plan: This has been an in-house effort with the principal objective of developing a common work plan by which the City and its economic development partners can follow in achieving our economic development goals.
2010 Census Data
: The bureau has been actively engaged with the Census Bureau in attempting to ensure a valid and complete count of all city residents. Now that the data is beginning to be released, the bureau will be reviewing that data and issuing periodic updates and analyses.