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Unified Development Code

Amendments to the Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code (the "UDC").

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Feb 20

Case ZTA 12-001: Amendments to the Unified Development Code

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 3:08 PM by Josh Whitehead

Executive Summary

Here is a copy of the final version of the UDC.
Here is a copy of the version of the UDC approved by the Land Use Control Board with all edits, except those subsequently approved by the Memphis City Council, in yellow highlights.

The Memphis and Shelby County Unified Development Code (the "UDC") was approved by the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in August, 2010, and took effect on Jan. 1, 2011.  It serves as the zoning code and subdivision regulations for all properties within the City of Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County.  This blog is devoted to the proposal to amend the UDC based on its one-year anniversary of enactment.  Please review the document and post any comments you may have.  All comments will be reviewed by Office of Planning and Development (OPD) staff. 

Update (April 4, 2012):

The Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board (LUCB) voted to hold this item for 30 days at its February 9, 2012, meeting.  OPD staff has delayed this item for an additional 30 days.  The UDC to be presented to the LUCB on April 12, 2012, is here.  All amendments are indicated in yellow highlights.  Deletions are indicated in yellow highlighted strikethrough.  Please note that this document will be updated throughout the month of March to reflect comments received by OPD.

A staff report that summarizes the amendments can be found here.

In addition to the amendments proposed to the UDC, a revised fee resolution will be presented as a companion item.  To view the proposed fee schedule, click here.  Exhibits 1-67 and 8 cited in the fee schedule are separarte files.

Once the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board acts on this item, it will proceed to the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners for three readings each.

Update (April 20, 2012 and June 8, 2012):

The LUCB approved the amendments to the UDC presented to them on April 12, with an added stipulation that Section 2.7.4 be amended to permit group instruction, provided that each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  The revised UDC, with the amended Section 2.7.4 for group instruction and a new Chapter 9.24 to review such cases can be found here (please note: a copy of the Code was placed on this website on April 18 that failed to contain the approved language of Section 9.3.2).   See minutes of the LUCB meeting where they made this motion here.  A description to these amendments can be found on the revised staff report that will be presented to City Council and the Board of County Commissioners can be found here.

During the April 12, 2012, LUCB meeting, staff presented three additional amendments that are incorporated into the documents above and specified in a memo here.

The tentative schedule for this ordinance stands as follows (updated June 5 to reflect action by City Council during its first reading; these dates are subject to change):

City Council: First Reading: June 5
City Council Planning and Zoning Committee: June 19
City Council: Second Reading: June 19
City Council Planning and Zoning Committee: July 3
County Commission Land Use Committee: First Reading: July 11
County Commission: First Reading: July 16
City Council Planning and Zoning Committee: July 17
City Council: Third Reading/PUBLIC HEARING: July 17
County Commission Land Use Committee: Second Reading: July 25
County Commission: Second Reading/PUBLIC HEARING: July 30
County Commission: Land Use Committee: Third Reading: August 8
County Commission: Third Reading: August 13
City Council: Approval of Minutes of their Third Reading: August 21

Update (May 31, 2012):

Since approval by the Land Use Control Board, there have been a few additions to the list of amendments that are included in the ordinance posted above.  A draft memorandum that describes these amendments and will be presented to City Council prior to their July 3 public hearing is available here

Update (June 2, 2012):

Throughout the months of February and March, Office of Planning and Development staff met with citizens who were concerned with the version of the amended UDC that was originally presented to the Land Use Control Board on February 9, 2012.  Their concerns, and OPD's responses, are chronicled in these documents: 2/28/12, 3/9/12, 3/13/12, 3/16/12, 3/21/12 and 3/28/12.  Color key: Green=Agreed; Yellow=Discussion/Explanation; Red=Points of Disagreement.

Update (June 5, 2012):

These links will upload the letters and emails of support received by the Office of Planning and Development for this zoning text amendment, as well as the letters and emails of opposition received as of this date, June 5, 2012.

Update (June 6, 2012):

A companion ordinance that amendments other sections of the City of Memphis Code of Ordinances will be presented with the amendments to the UDC.  Most of these amendments are housekeeping in nature, but several substantive changes are proposed to the City's Alcohol Code, including new regulations for microbreweries.  That ordinance can be downloaded here.

Update (June 7, 2012):

To demonstrate the evolution of this zoning text amendment in response to the comments received by OPD and memorialized in the documents posted above on June 2, the following links will upload the versions of the UDC as presented on this website on 2/7/12, 2/24/12 and 3/22/12.  Staff reports that accompanied these versions are available here for 2/7/12, 2/24/12 and 3/22/12.

Update (June 8, 2012):

The following two versions of the UDC were not posted on this blog previously.  They are posted here for the purpose of showing the evolution of this zoning text amendment.  Link here for versions dated 11/29/11 and 1/3/12.

Update (June 28, 2012):

Based on numerous requests and negotiations from members of the City Council, Board of County Commissioners and the public, several amendments to the UDC will be proposed to the City Council and Board of County Commissioners prior to their public hearings.  To view a copy of this memo that will be forwarded to the members of the City Council's Planning and Zoning Committee for their July 3 meeting, click on this link.  Note: there are several outstanding issues, particularly surrounding the issuance of administrative deviations, that will be added to this list before the July 17 public hearing before City Council.

Update (July 2, 2012):

Here is a copy of the UDC Frequently Asked Questions that was passed out during the District 5 Public Hearing on the UDC on June 27, 2012.

Update (July 12, 2012):

Here is a copy of the memorandum to be presented to the July 17 Planning and Zoning Committee of the Memphis City Council and the July 17 full Memphis City Council that summarizes the additional amendments proposed to the UDC since the Land Use Control Board took action on this item.

Update (July 18, 2012):

Here is a copy of the memorandum that summarizes all amendments approved by the Memphis City Council during their Third Reading on this case on July 17, 2012.

Update (August 8, 2012):

Here is a copy of the UDC as approved by the Memphis City Council on July 17, 2012, and codified with the reading of their minutes on August 7, 2012.  Please note that this version also needs approval by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.  Please also note that the document's pagination may change, as well as the pages indicated on its table of contents and index.

Update (Sept. 1, 2012):

Here is the final copy of the UDC as approved on Third and Final Reading by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners on August 27, 2012, with corrected pagination.  This will also be posted on the standard webpages of the Office of Planning and Development.


Mary Baker
January 13, 2012 at 2:48 PM
5.2.7A of the UDC allows City and County Engineers to approve streets that exceed the maximum pavement width set by the UDC street standards. The staff report does not give any reason for this change. Why is this change needed?
Josh Whitehead
January 14, 2012 at 2:56 PM
Mary: Thank you for the comment. I believe the intent here was to permit the Land Use Control Board, either through the PD or subdivision process, to authorize wider streets where necessary. For instance, Crestwyn Hills Drive between Winchester and Forest Hill-Irene has been partially built at a 48 foot curb-to-curb width, so its future sections should probably be 48 feet, as well (Sub-Section 5.2.7C limits connectors to 45 feet). Since the LUCB and/or legislative bodies already have this authority elsewhere in the Code (see Chapter 4.10 for PDs and 9.7.7F(1) for subdivisions), I think the change to 5.2.7A is unnecessary. This amendment will be removed from the ordinance when it is presented to the LUCB.
Mary Baker
January 15, 2012 at 4:53 PM
Josh, I hope I am not the only one leaving comments. Here is another question I had as I reviewed the proposed amendments. In 3.7.2, I am curious about the changes in RU-2 which was formerly the Residential Townhouse (R-TH) District. You add more dense building types and significantly increase the percentage of the development that can be in these more dense building types. Have you reviewed the distribution of sites that were R-TH and now converted to RU-2 and concluded this change will be appropriate. I am also curious about planned developments that have parcels governed by R-TH. Will they now be allowed to build the more dense building types in the percentages allowed. What prompted you to propose this change? If it was explained in the staff report, I must have missed it.
Josh Whitehead
January 15, 2012 at 8:43 PM
Mary: Only the yellow highlighted language represents amendments. Based on Section 3.7.1, we are adding no new housing types to the RU-2 district with this series of amendments. As it compares to the old Zoning Code (which is still available on's page of the Memphis Code of Ordinances) and its R-TH district, it appears the one addition that the UDC made to the RU-2 district is the new housing type called the "stacked townhome" (a townhome with a separate horizontal unit). That addition was made with the adoption of the original UDC, so the analysis by OPD of the then R-TH districts whilst the UDC was being formulated stands. As to the percentage of housing types, we are proposing to increase these, but since the old Zoning Code had no limitations, the amendments strike a balance between the old Code and the current UDC. 3.7.2 will indeed apply to new developments, including those within approved PD Outline Plans. As such, it seemed to us that reducing a R-TH PD's allowance from 100% townhomes (under the old Zoning Code) to 20% townhomes was excessive and not in keeping with the intent of the R-TH zoning district.
Brenda Solomito
January 18, 2012 at 4:14 PM
Josh, Thank you for this preview. Under 2.5 Permited Use Table,would it be possible to permit Electrical Vehicle Charges in OG by right? In IH, can we also add "manufacure of industrial and medical gases as permitted by right? How would steel manufacturing fit in IH? There is some recycling, however, primary function is steel manufacturing. Thank you!
Josh Whitehead
January 19, 2012 at 5:06 AM
Brenda: Thank you for your comments. On the electrical vehicle charing units, see Chapter 2.9. For most of the uses permitted in the OG zoning district, these are permitted as acceptable accessory uses. The "commercial electric vehicle charge station" that is found in the use table in Chapter 2.5 deals with these as the principal use. Also, see the definitions - a "commercial electric vehicle charge station" looks and acts like a gas station, which are not permitted in the OG district. On the manufacture of industrial and medical gases, this would fall under "all heavy industrial, except as listed below" on the use table in Chapter 2.5. In other words, it is permitted by right in the IH district. On steel manufacturing, this would fall under "primary metal manufacturing," which requires a special use permit in the IH district. This is in contradiction to the old Zoning Code (see Appendix A in Title 16:, which permitted metal manufacturing as a use by right in the Heavy Industrial district. I will make this change to the UDC since we are trying to create as few nonconforming uses as possible.
Brenda Solomito
January 19, 2012 at 2:05 PM
Thank you Josh.
Russell Johnson
January 26, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thank you for posting this information. I apologize if I missed it, but where are the changes intended to promote pedestrian and bike traffic by requiring traffic-calming-devices (such as speed bumps, speed humps, stripping, signs urging caution) in parking lots? Thank you.
Josh Whitehead
January 27, 2012 at 8:27 AM
Russell: Good timing on your suggestion. One of my staff members just came up with the following langauge to insert in Section 4.5.5 (specifically, a new Sub-Section 4.5.5N). It does not include speed humps, but that is an option to the developer. "Pedestrian facilities providing full and safe access to and through the site shall be installed in all off-street parking areas. Pedestrian facilities include walkways, sidewalks and crosswalks. Such facilities must be clearly marked and protected from vehicular encroachment by wheel stops or curbs. Pedestrian facilities shall be connected to pedestrian facilities on abutting sites, sidewalks in the abutting public right-of-way and entrances to buildings on the site. The Planning Director may waive the requirement to install parking facilities based on the site’s size, use or uses and the presence of pedestrian facilities on surrounding sites and in the abutting public right-of-way."
Chooch Pickard
February 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM
Josh, I think there's a typo in the above comment. "The Planning Director may waive the requirement to install parking facilities..." Shouldn't that be pedestrian facilities?
Kristen Heath
March 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM
My question is in regards to section 2.7.4 Home Occupations. The number "1" is highlighted - does this mean a proposal to add "Group Instruction" to the list of prohibited Home Occupations or is it just a format correction? Thank you!
Anonymous User
March 14, 2012 at 3:24 PM
In regards to Kristen's question above.. does this mean that NO group instruction will be allowed in the home going forward? This troubles me greatly. My child has participated in group instruction at someone's home for swim school, and we were planning to have him participate in a similar program for tennis when he is older. It has been my experience that the only other way to participate in classes of this kind is via membership at a country club. We would rather not have to join an expensive/exclusive club in order for our child to learn to swim or play tennis in a group setting. Also, we were interested in a class where young ones would learn Spanish at someone's home in a group environment so that the children would see the class as an opportunity to play with their friends...while learning. Would that be prohibited? I know that the wonderful instructors for these classes would, if unable to teach at home, be forced to rent space, charge more and thus, make these programs unattainable for most. I think if this UDC goes forward with 2.7.4 as it is written, you will be eliminating affordable opportunities for our little ones to learn in a group environment! Please advise! Thank you!
kathy ferguson
March 14, 2012 at 3:26 PM
Please note, my name is Kathy Ferguson and I left the comment above. I have signed in but post is showing as Anon.
Josh Whitehead
March 19, 2012 at 4:41 PM
Ms. Heath and Ms. Ferguson: There are no proposed changes to the UDC in this regard. Group instruction is currently not permitted in residential zoning districts. It is not permitted under the UDC, it was not permitted under the prior zoning ordinance that was adopted in 1981 and it was not permitted under the zoning ordinance prior to that. With that said, I will share the comments made on this page to the approving bodies (Land Use Control Board, Memphis City Council and Shelby County Board of Commissioners) when this case goes before them.
Amanda Gowen
March 27, 2012 at 9:40 PM
This is in response to section 2.7.4. I'm in shock that group instruction is not permitted in the home! My 3 children participated in group instruction for swimming lessons. It was such a wonderful and nurturing environment for my children to learn this life saving skill. Using the homeowners own pool, reduced the fee it would have cost to go to a public and/or private country club pool. I feel it was a better ratio and more accommodating to families of small children. Also, this would impact other group instruction that my family has been involved in such as art lessons, music lessons and exercise classes. If these instructors are not permitted to carry on with their "jobs" in their homes, they may be forced to quit their jobs rather than find expensive commercial space. It's a loss for all involved, instructor and participants.
Stacy Adams
March 28, 2012 at 8:50 PM
This is in response to sections 2.7.4, It is very disheartening that group instruction is not permitted in the home. My son took Swimming lessons in a group setting and I was amazed at what he learned. This also came in handy when we were in FL and he stepped off a drop off in the ocean, and swam back to where he could stand. We can not afford a gym membership, and if group lessons were not allowed, my child would not have received swim lessons, and the results in FL could have been much different without the instructions that he received. We all are looking for ways to cut spending and save money, and ways to make ends meet. Small home business can be more affordable for people, and it helps keeps money spent in our local communities. This is truly sad.
Marianne Mard
April 9, 2012 at 10:00 PM
This is in response to sections 2.7.4. I am shocked to learn that group instructions in the home is not permitted. All 3 of my children took lessons from an individual using her private pool. One of my children took a group lesson from the YMCA but did not learn how to swim. After taking lessons in a smaller group setting from an individual who actually cared and was caring to my child, he learned to swim. Not only does this service benefit my child, but the person giving the lesson is able to be "employed". That person is doing something she loves doing, teaching children, and making money. It is appalling to think that there could be issues with someone, who is well qualified and trained,to teach basic skills to children from their home. Let people earn a living the best way they can so they are able to "spend" money themselves in order to help the economy. It should be a pretty simple decision considering the shape the economy is right here in our own city.
Anonymous User
April 10, 2012 at 2:05 PM
This is in response to 2.7.4. I am very concerned that the city would not allow their constituents to be able to have group instructions in their home. By operating a small business in one's home, this is how a lot of people feed their families and in turn support the local economy. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that makes this country what it is! I would urge you to allow group instructions inside an individual's home because if not I believe you will see people move out of your community into other nearby areas where this is permitted. Please consider all of these factors when you vote on this very important issue!
Lauren Gilchrist
April 10, 2012 at 2:09 PM
This is Lauren Gilchrist and I left the above comment on April 10, 2012 that came up anonymous.
Delia Molinski
April 10, 2012 at 11:01 PM
This is in response to section 2.7.4. I support changes to allow group instruction in the home. Whether it is swim lessons, piano lessons, tutoring, or any number of activities, home instruction is a long-held tradition which needs to be supported. Please vote to support small business.
Anonymous User
April 11, 2012 at 9:41 PM
This is Faith Weber: I agree with the above comments that the we need to revisit the section that does not allow group instruction in the UDC. Many other communities such as Nashville have addressed this in detail as it does need some defining and not just say we should allow or not allow group instruction in general. Some municipalities define group instruction by allowing a certain number of individuals such as five to be instructed in the home. Nashville has gone into greater detail by modifiying the standards of home occupation by creating a new land use with standards called “home business.” Perhaps we could propose to change the wording to allow for home instruction as more and more people are running businesses out of their homes. As mentioned in Nashville, home occupations in Nashville were allowed without restriction as early as 1933 until 1963, and I assume the same was probably true for Memphis. Just because the current zoning does not allow for group instruction does not mean it was not allowed in the past. I think with the current trends in the economy, we need to keep our zoning updated to allow for group instruction. It currently goes on without check in many of the wholesome avenues mentioned above (swimming, art, tennis, etc) and these types of activities should be allowed to continue. I learned swimming in a group environment in a private pool out of someone’s home when I was growing up as did many other people in Memphis. Not allowing something as vital as swim instruction that enhances the safety of the public would be a detriment to our city. If this issue is not addressed and the wording not changed, it will affect our children. I recommend redefining group instruction to either not include swim instruction- It could say “ the following shall not be considered home occupations- swim instruction and first aid instruction.” Or, to try to differentiate between home occupations and home businesses by defining each to address the different types and deleting the current definition for home occupation. Check out Nashville’s ordinance that amending this issue in Ordinance No. BL2011-924. And lastly, another way would be to simply allow group instruction, but limit the number, such as: For group instruction, no more than 5 students at one time shall be allowed.
Anonymous User
April 11, 2012 at 9:46 PM
I am writing to support changes to section 2.7.4 to allow in-home group instruction. Our government should be making every effort to support small businesses, especially during these difficult economic times. These earners provide valuable services and put money back into our local economy. I understand that such a ordinance may be intended to serve legitimate purposes such as protecting public safety and preventing the abuse of in-home activities. However, it seems to me that this ordinance is not being enforced unless someone complains (I bet few people know it even exists). If lax enforcement is the case, how are the legitimate interests being furthered? Wouldn't interests be better served by allowing in-home group instruction, implementing regulations to ensure safety/prevent abuse and then enforcing the regulations? A full ban is overreaching. If the ban is not lifted and the ordinance is enforced (and if it enforced against one person it should be enforced against all) our community loss will be great. In-home group instructors provide unique resources, skills, and learning environments. I have enrolled and wish to continue to enroll my child in such groups. My child's safety is paramount. I know that the in-home groups I sign her up for are safe - the classes are small enough to allow for close monitoring of the group while still allowing for individual attention. An added benefit is that, as a consumer, I feel I am getting the full benefit of my bargain-the home owner is able to control the enviornment to provide meaningful education and not glorified babysitting services. I firmly believe that my child is much safer and learns much more in an intimate in-home setting than she does at traditional businesses. In a public setting, there are often multiple classes going on at the same time, larger classes, numerous distractions, untrained and/or inexperienced instructors, and inferior security. Costs, location and inconvenient class times can also be issues with traditional businesses. Keeping this absolute ban on in-home instruction is not in the community's best interest. I hope that the Commission will vote to repeal section 2.4.7 or at a minimum will amend it to allow for regulated in house group instruction.
Kim Coggin
April 11, 2012 at 9:52 PM
Kim Coggin submitted the post on April 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm that was listed as "Anonymous User"
Lee Harris
April 20, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Josh, Thanks for this. I've taken a brief look at the changes, with a close eye to the changes to group instruction and I am a little worried. Prior to your changes, as I understand it, group instruction was not permitted in the home. Now, the changes permit 4 students per hour without permit. However, it appears based on your staff report that this would make Memphis/Shelby County an outlier, way too permissive. Although a permissive group instruction rule might have some advantage (as folks have noted in the comments), it might still drive up traffic in neighborhoods and change the quality of these neighborhoods without the neighbors ever having a chance to voice their concerns. Why not simply permit 1 student per hour for instruction, like most of the cities cited in your report, and let the conditional use permit process work for others who want to do more than that. This may be better balance in my view.
John Flynt
April 20, 2012 at 10:53 AM
I am opposed to amendment 5.2.11 which sets the default design speed as 30 mph. Research shows that 25 mph is the maximum safe speed for vehicles traveling in residential neighborhoods and/or those that experience significant pedestrian activity. Along those lines, we are spending millions in order to slow vehicles to 25 mph on residential streets throughout the city. It is simply a matter of employing common sense to set the default speed at 25 mph in order to avoid costly retrofits at a later date.

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