The Marion County Land Use Plan Pattern Book is the text component of the plan that establishes the land use classification system. The classification system is what is then applied to maps to lay out a wide variety of types of places we want to see in Marion County. The Pattern Book will apply to all land use plans developed after its adoption in November 2017.
The Pattern Book marks a shift in how planners categorize land use recommendations. The previous system, developed in the 1980s and 1990s, functioned much like a paint-by-number painting, with planners attempting to subjectively forecast a very precise future for each and every parcel in Marion County. The truth is nobody knows the future of every single piece of property in our city. Such a system is simple to understand, but because it does not factor in market, environmental, or other realities that change over time, can sometimes create unrealistic expectations for how an area is likely to actually develop. Furthermore, such a system only conveys what a land use should be, not why it should be that, providing little context for stakeholders and decision makers. And perhaps most importantly, such a system has not always resulted in places that are healthy, resilient, inclusive, or competitive–the four core values of the Comprehensive Plan.
Instead of being very prescriptive, the Pattern Book takes a new, descriptive approach. It assembles compatible land uses into a variety of “buckets” known as typologies. These typologies are what are then painted on the map. This doesn’t mean every land use in that bucket is appropriate anywhere in that area though. For each individual land use, objective planning conditions are placed that guide where such a use is appropriate. For example, schools are appropriate neighborhood land uses. But we cannot predict in 20 years whether one parcel should be a school or another. But we do know some objective planning requirements. Schools have buses and should therefore be on roads that can handle the bus traffic. And because schools serve their surrounding neighborhoods, we want to make sure sidewalks safely connect to nearby residential areas. And we know that students are vulnerable to air pollution, so we don’t want schools within 1,000 feet of a high-pollution highway corridor. If an individual property meets those conditions, a school is a recommended land use. If a property doesn’t–if it doesn’t have sidewalks or is not a street that can accommodate buses, then it’s not a recommended land use.
It’s not as simple to understand, but it provides a similar level of guidance as our previous systems. And more importantly, it conveys not just the “what,” but also the why, providing stakeholders and decision makers with much more information about whether a site is suited for a particular land use. And it does this in a very transparent way through objective planning rationale.