Providence officials believe an overhaul of the city's zoning ordinances will bring a boost to the economy.
The Mayor of Providence said Tuesday a new initiative called "Re-Zoning Providence" will allow those looking to buy, grow or improve property in the city freedom from red tape, backlogged paperwork and antiquated rules.
The zoning laws for the city of Providence were drafted in 1951, and the Mayor Angel Taveras said it's high time to update the system in order to help grow the economy.
The goal is to make it easier and more desirable to do business and make money in the city.
Some local citizens and entrepreneurs said they have tried to purchase, renovate or change certain local properties in recent decades and experienced nothing but setback after setback.
But the Re-Zoning Providence effort is designed to change that. City planners have been working with national zoning professionals and holding workshops locally to brainstorm the best practices for what's expected to be a wide-sweeping array of major changes.
"It's an old zoning code, based on 1951 thinking in a 2013 world, and we need to change that," said Taveras.
Using an example of a zoning change for a charging station for a fully electric car, "I'm pretty sure I can tell you without hesitation that was not something they thought about in 1951," as he laughed.
On Tuesday the City's Department of Planning and Development met with residents, developers and business owners at a downtown meeting.
The forum was one of the first steps in a year-long process designed to completely overhaul and update zoning rules in the city.
Many of those who attended the meeting were concerned about rules that require some buildings to provide a certain number of parking spaces for customers and or residents.
"I'm hoping that they remove minimum requirements, that people will be allowed to build as the market demands, and if they're successful, fantastic, and then they won't have to pave over their lot to have parking," said Providence resident Jonathan Harris.
Avid cyclist James Kennedy agrees. "What we should be doing is removing that kind of minimum, because it's really a suburban use of land and it encourages less development in our area, and it means that we have fewer things that we can use, and it means it's harder to walk to them or bike to them or use a bus in an efficient way."
Other people just want to be included in conversations about what's being built in their neighborhoods.
"I want to see the resident have more say, number one. And I think they should put residents on those (zoning and planning) workshops too, and listen to them. Because if I'm a taxpayer, or I'm a homeowner, I don't want to see something in my back yard that I didn't even know was going there," said Jimmy Carello.
"As times change, we need to make sure that we adapt and change accordingly. So the major issue is making sure that we update our zoning, that it reflects our values, that it simplifies the process, that it's clear for everyone," said the mayor.
Once the numerous changes are ironed out the new zoning laws are expected to be rolled out by September or October of 2014.
Click here to submit your thoughts on improving the zoning rules in Providence.
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