Providence signs in new zoning ordinance


Landmark Ordinance implements City's Vision in Comp Plan; 1st general amendment since 1994

Ordinance part of Mayor's 20-point Economic Development Plan

– Mayor Angel Taveras was joined by City Council President Michael Solomon Monday, along with other members of the Providence City Council; Councilman Seth Yurdin, Chair of the Ordinances Committee; James S. Bennett, Director of Economic Development, Ruben Flores-Marzan, Director of Planning and Development, Christine Malecki West, Chair of the Providence City Plan Commission;  and other city officials including Robert Azar, Director of  City Planning and Bonnie Nickerson, Director of Long-Range Planning, and other officials to formally announce the passage of the city's new Zoning Ordinance and to sign it into law.

The Ordinance, which was approved by the Council on November 24 and becomes effective December 24, 2014, is the first full general amendment since 1994 and includes revision of regulations dating back to the early 1950's. It signals the end of an 18-month collaboration between the city's Planning Department and other departments, residents, business owners, developers, institutions and stakeholders, and an 8-year process to align the city's comprehensive plan with an updated Zoning Ordinance  The Zoning Ordinance is the regulatory tool for implementing the city's Comprehensive Plan, which was  adopted in 2012.

“Providence is a great, award-winning city, and the adoption of this Zoning Ordinance means it will continue to be great and fulfill its vision for 21st Century  development ,” said Mayor Angel Taveras. “Today's signing signals the completion of a major priority in my 20-point economic development plan, “Putting Providence Back to Work,” and it stands as a great example of  public-private collaboration for other initiatives in the future. “

"The adoption of Providence's new zoning ordinance is the culmination eight years' of collaboration, which included an award-winning planning initiative to update the city's comprehensive plan and create neighborhood plans. Hundreds of Providence residents participated in that process, creating a vision and goals for the city's built environment and open spaces," said Council President Michael A. Solomon. "That vision and those goals are represented in the modern, accessible zoning ordinance that will now guide our planning and economic development efforts."

"One of the most significant accomplishments of the 2014 zoning ordinance is the high level of public participation, which was integral to the process," stated Majority Leader and Chairman of the Committee on Ordinances, Councilman Seth Yurdin. "The ordinance is a complete overhaul of the existing zoning code, and from beginning to end, the City Council has listened to residents, neighborhood groups, businesses, and public and private institutions.  This zoning ordinance represents the best ideas, creates more predictable development standards, and preserves and builds upon Providence's strengths as a dense, walkable, and historic city."

“This new Zoning ordinance is a significant accomplishment with the potential for long-reaching benefit to our city. The impact will be seen in more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, in buildings that fit our historic city patterns, and a common sense approach to regulations that will ease the process for those who build within our city. The staff of the Providence Planning Department deserves tremendous credit for their insightful work throughout the process," said Christine Malecki West, AIA, and chair of the City Plan Commission.

The Zoning Ordinance provides a set of land use and development regulations, organized by zoning district. The Zoning Map identifies the location of the zoning districts, specifying the land use and development requirements affecting each parcel of land within the City.

Highlights & significance of new Zoning Ordinance

The zoning is a critical tool to implementing the city's goals for smart, sustainable, equitable and transit-oriented development; it implements the vision of the city's Comprehensive Plan and other policy adopted in 2012, and is the result of extensive public input – including 10 neighborhood plans – from 2005 through 2012. The new Ordinance provides a clear framework for guiding growth and was one of the Mayor's major initiatives in his 20-point plan, Putting Providence Back to Work, released in March 2013.

The document is the result of a 1 ½ year collaboration made possible by a HUD Community Challenge Planning grant, through its office of Sustainable Housing and Communities. The city hired Camiros, an award-winning consulting firm with national zoning experience, to help write the new Ordinance. The City Plan Commission voted unanimously on August 19, 2014 to recommend the City Council approve the new Ordinance. It was subsequently approved at the November 6 and 20 meetings of the Council.

Key changes

The new Ordinance includes revisions to existing Ordinance including district standards, use permissions, processes, and development standards. It streamlines the development process. It allows for high-quality mixed use development where appropriate and helps better preserve, strengthen and protect the historic pattern of development central to the character of the city. It also includes many changes to the Zoning Map, such as geographic boundaries of current zoning districts, consolidation of existing districts and creation of new ones.

Examples include: a new R-1A district in the Blackstone area to prevent subdivision of large residential lots; General Residence and Multi-Family resident replaced by one R4 district to consolidate medium & high density into one simplified zone; consistent standards for major C1/C2 commercial corridors; new transit-oriented development (TOD) to encourage more intensive development on portions of major transit routes of North Main and Broad Streets. It also includes a new Landmark Historic District expanding the current non-contiguous Industrial Commercial Buildings District with voluntary inclusion of residential or institutional properties based on National Register or other criteria; expanded uses in W3Waterfront zone ensuring that LPG as with other fuels is an allowable use for storage and distribution, facilitating current industrial expansion as a long term use.

The Zoning Ordinance is online at: