The Shreveport Master Plan, spearheaded by the Metropolitan Planning Committee, promises to make the city a better place to live. About 67 percent of that plan can't happen without a unified development code. Those are laws that standardize development, ensure appeal, provide a more comfortable life for citizens and much more. The MPC has plans to create UDCs, but damage has already been done without them.
Right now, Shreveport has zoning laws that date back to the late 1950s. They've only been patched up with no comprehensive rewrite over the years and some say that's harmed the city's appeal.
"They're really designed to encourage more auto orientated development patterns," Dara Sanders said. She's master plan administrator for the MPC. Sanders says that focus on cars produced development along Youree Drive, which has outdated and unsustainable drainage, few trees and isn't pedestrian friendly. There are hardly any side walks.
"Verses an urban traditional pattern, which is what you see downtown," Sanders said.
However, downtown hasn't escaped the zoning law's harm. Liz Swaine, director of the Downtown Development Authority, says the area is under B-4 zoning. That basically means mixed use development and doesn't sit well with investors.
"Because there are so many what are called usage by right within B-4, developers don't know what is going to develop next to them," Swaine said. "You can not ask somebody to spend a lot of money rehabbing a building if they don't have a comfort level about who their neighbor will be."
Swaine says that's harmed development downtown. Developer Linc Coleman adds lack of maintenance enforcement has as well.
"There have been tragic circumstances in the past where people have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating building, very fine buildings," Coleman said. "Then only to have to sell them later at a grossly discounted price only because the building next them were damaging their building."
Unified development codes would set strict development standards that will focus on making Shreveport more aesthetically pleasing, pedestrian friendly and more. Sanders says that would mean landscaping requirements, more pedestrian connections, bike paths and racks. The codes will provide more appropriate transitions between residential and business developments and combat urban sprawl. To encourage developers not to abandon inner-city properties, a unified development code would also lower the cost to develop. Sanders says that may help cleanup blighted neighborhoods.
"So by incentives, development through density bonuses, even through fees, reducing fees or even eliminating fees, in those distressed areas can encourage reinvestment in those areas," Sanders said.
As for downtown, Swaine says it may be broken down into three zones.
"Maybe you have your riverfront entertainment zone," she said. "Then you have your central business district zone. Then you have your west edge art zone." Swaine believes that could help manage development downtown and make developers feel safer to invest and build.
Coleman says UDCs are present in cities that flourish because it unifies development and provides an even playing field for developers.
"Those elements are critical to investment in our community," Coleman said. "Anyone that invests in our community needs to be able to rely on the uniform implementation of those."
Sanders says your input will be wanted and required for exactly what the UDC will demand. public research meetings are planned to gain insight.
"We're going to divide Shreveport-Caddo planning area into five areas where citizens, stake holders, residents can go to one or all of those meetings to participate," Sanders said.
Once implemented, all new development and re-development in Shreveport will be governed by the UDC. It'll be sometime before the UDC's are implemented, possibly two years. The consulting firm Camiros, based in Chicago, won the rights to write them up but their contract is still being studied by parish and city officials. They are charging around $400,000 and also handled New Orleans' latest UDCs.