Zoning in Greater Lansing

Thought a stand-alone thread may be a more appropriate to discuss zoning issue in general.

Here I've been carefully proposing minor changes to the zoning code, and Milwaukee just rips the band-aid off. lol


  • Wow that's awesome for Milwaukee. This will probably spur a lot of development there
  • Hopefully it works as intended, at the very least other municipalities will be able to learn a lot from what happens.
  • The Lansing Planning and Zoning Office is introducing a new round of zoning amendments to Planning Commission as well as briefing members on supported rules for ADUs that a citizen advocacy group has requested. These can be found on www.lansingmi.gov/374/Zoning under the 'Draft Form-Based Code, Second Amendment' heading but I'll let this serve as an AMA - ask me anything.
  • @citykid Thanks for sharing with us. I've had trouble finding the time to read through that. I was only mildly familiar with the original FBC so I'm entirely dependent on skimming the yellow highlights. Just a couple questions:

    Is there anything on ADU's besides exempting them from certain requirements of other accessory structures? Are they only allowed where a duplex would otherwise be allowed then? Not in R-1 or R-2?

    Will the zoning map be revisited regularly? I hope that as time goes on citizens in certain neighborhoods grow more amenable to denser zoning, allowing for incremental up zoning.

    More of a suggestion from the fence section: it specifies "treated" wood, I'd also add something to the affect of "naturally rot resistant" woods to cover Cedar and niche woods like ipe or teak, no sense in discouraging the use of those or requiring special approval.

    Other stuff I'm glad to see:
    Less zoning types.
    More allowances for home businesses.
    Garages not projecting beyond the main front wall.
    Allowances for cottage courts(!), co-ops and boarding/rooming houses.
    The aesthetic guidelines throughout, particularly in the "building articulation" section.
    The expanded R-MX zoning.

    Besides the mere existence of R-1 and R-2 zoning I continue to be generally content with the FBC. All in all there seems to be some pretty sensible changes although I still haven't really looked it through thoroughly, the next 10 or 20 years ought to do a lot to inform future policy. It'll be fun to see what starts coming down the development pipeline.

    What are your thoughts as someone who I assume has been working with this quite a bit? What changes do you like? What do you think is likely to be most impactful?
  • edited May 7
    I understand it is a lot and not the most exciting topic to delve into.

    ADUs have largely been spearheaded by an advocacy group, as you may seen in the City Pulse the last few months. The Planning & Zoning Office crafted regulations we thought were appropriate and the group seems agreeable. It just might be brought up separately from the general changes so it hasn't been uploaded yet. It is in the May Planning Commission packet though, the last three pages. Apologies for the confusion.

    Right now the proposed map mostly reflects merged districts since the city has to change the future land use map first, but best practice is to have a lot of public input and notice since it dictates what people can do with their property. Three years on since FBC and we still get calls from people confused that their zoning district changed. There are a lot of requests for duplexes-quadplexes from investors. I think there is a lot of opposition to middle housing densification just based on all the people who were opposed to the many lot splits of 2023. So it is tough to get into the map until there is a push to conduct those input meetings.

    The new fence language is only to tighten up enforcement. There is some wacky things going on and the type of junk/scrap materials people put up or add as screening. There would be no denial of any wood type if it was manufactured for fencing.

    I think the complete neighborhoods/"15 minute city" model is the best basis for zoning so i would like to see MX-1/MX-2 and R-3 (current R-6b) expanded around major neighborhood nodes and bus stops. Although there is an overabundance of commercial parcels and it is tough to have a thriving local business in this oligarchy-dominated capitalist society, creating spaces for that middle density of mixed-use development is probably key to marketing Lansing in the region. I didn't really expect Lansing corridors and district centers to transform into Barcelona superblocks overnight, but it has been discouraging to see the same old 4-over-1 apartments and suburban auto-dependent business (car washes, fast food) be like the only thing proposed the last three years.
  • I'm very happy to see that ADU's seem likely to happen. I will almost certainly build one at my house eventually, I have a friend who owns a few investment properties that I'd encourage to add them as well. It could be quite good for me personally.

    I think it's important to point out to people in zoning debates that zoning laws are sort of anti-property rights by their nature, it's a case of neighbors dictating to neighbors what they can do with each others property. Most of us agree that drop forges and steel foundries don't belong near residential but there's a lot of grey area where NIMBY's seem to dominate the conversation. I like examples like what Milwaukee did above.

    I love the idea of expanding where businesses can exist, I've talked about it before and I continue to think it's important. Same with denser residential. It will allow for more organic growth and more dynamic/interesting neighborhoods. Besides the impact on the aesthetics and livability of neighborhoods, lifting zoning restrictions is a really important way to help the smallest of small businesses, then with luck those small businesses grow and with a bit more luck they stay in town creating jobs and tax revenue. That attracts more entrepreneurial people and can (hopefully) create a positive feedback loop over time.

    I too have been disappointed at the lack of larger or more interesting developments but these things take time. Lansing is coming from behind regionally in a region that's already far behind in a nation that's behind when it comes to vibrant cities. The Gentilozzi projects are a big barometer, if those don't happen or if they get scaled back my doubts will begin to seep in again. For what it's worth, in my 20+ years of following developments closely and being on the various local forums, there's never been more momentum than right now. I think that's true throughout the metro area as well. I give former mayor/regional leader Hollister a great deal of credit for that.
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