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The Future of Planning & Zoning is Here

April 26th, 2017

By Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed, RMA Director of Urban Design & Planning

Two years ago I was asked by Max Zabala, co-founder of Gridics, to test a beta-version of their new software, Zonar.City. This program instantly builds 3D models of any parcel, or assemblage of parcels, under the specific land use and zoning regulations, saving urban planners weeks of work. Immediately impressed by the overall scope, I assisted his team with key feedback to improve the functionality and optimize the platform. Based on the successful testing and benefits of the software, RMA has announced a partnership with Gridics, LLC to introduce Zonar.City (www.rma.us.com/zonar) to municipalities nationwide. This patent-pending site-specific zoning software will be a game changer for the industry, and we are honored to be combining forces to launch the application.

Zonar.City is the world’s first site-specific zoning software application to integrate GIS, property record data and land development regulations into a real-time interactive tool that helps  visualize the development pattern and provides statistical data of the development capacity of a site. The cloud-based software is fully customizable, allowing calibration to any city’s code and   testing of new codes to validate expected outcomes. The powerful software also features many other functions to expedite and simplify the plan review process.

Currently, urban planners utilize a manual process to calculate the development capacity of a site. We start by designing the site and figuring out the various lot configurations. Then we create tables of the development capacity for each scenario. It is a tedious and time consuming process. Now, with the Zonar.City software, the calibrations are expedited and the scenarios are produced instantly, with 3D visuals that enhance presentations to city leaders and residents. For urban planners, designers, architects and cities nationwide, this increases predictability and smart planning.

RMA has authored many form-based codes and conducted several comprehensive plan amendments for cities looking to encourage redevelopment, while establishing clear expectations of the desired development pattern and expected public benefits. It is difficult to change the rules without fully understanding what the current rules allow. As urban planners, we are always balancing the need to enhance the built environment and incentivize development with protecting property rights. The most challenging task is then explaining the impact of the amendments on the quality of life and obtaining community consensus. This software will dramatically address this challenge with 3D visuals that clearly show all options, providing a solid foundation for discussion and consensus.

When we use the right tools, we make better decisions about our codes, which means we know what to expect. For the City of Pompano Beach, Florida, RMA is utilizing Zonar.City to help craft the form-based regulations for the transit oriented corridor on the East. The software has proven to be very useful for understanding the impact of commercial development on the single-family neighborhoods, based on the current and proposed regulations for height and mass.

Our goal is to utilize this tool to streamline the amendment process and make more informed decisions about our cities, while enhancing the communication between industry professionals and city leaders and residents.

RMA will be introducing the software at the Florida City County Management Association (FCCMA) annual conference in Orlando, Florida, May 31- June 3, 2017

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