By Evan Casey
Understanding the zoning ordinances of a specific city can be confusing and complicated. Milwaukee is no different, as there are countless laws set in place to control what type of building can be placed in a certain area of the city. However, a summer series designed to educate citizens about how to obtain permits in Milwaukee began last week.
Greg Patin, project manager with the Department of City Development, spoke specifically about zoning to 20 interested residents of Milwaukee at City Hall last week Monday.
“If you take a step by step manner, it can be reasonable to figure out,” said Patin. “It’s a powerful thing to have that knowledge.”
Patin said that understanding what the zoning code is for a specific building is an integral step in understanding out how to obtain a permit from the city for that specific building. Every building in the city has a specific zoning designation, set by the Department of City Development. The Map Milwaukee Portal on the city of Milwaukee’s website can help anyone find out what a certain property is zoned as.
Patin said there are different zones across the city to reflect different “context,” according to Patin. “You want to have a neighborhood zone that reflects the context,” he said.
One of the newer zoning districts in Milwaukee is called Local Business 3. According to the department’s website, this district is the “most urban and is characterized by design standards appropriate for neighborhood commercial hubs, centers, corridors and transit-oriented development areas that have a denser level of development and may have taller buildings, all of which promote compact, walkable, sustainable neighborhoods.”
In general, a zoning code can control how big a parking lot should be, or how many windows are appropriate for a building. If a building plan does not meet the specific zoning ordinance for that area, an 11-chapter guidebook, then any individual can go to the Board of Zoning Appeals to plead their individual case.
Michael Adetoro, a city developer, came to the luncheon to get more details about zoning. He said he already knew a good deal about zoning, but learned more about special use permits, a permit the Board of Zoning Appeals can grant.
“I thought I was pretty familiar about zoning, but I learned some new things today,” said Adetoro. “If you’re a younger developer or builder and working with the city, if you haven’t gone through it, you can learn from your mistakes, or you can learn from other people’s mistakes…but I’d rather learn from other people’s mistakes.”
There will be four more special series over the summer, titled “Lunch and Learn.” All of them are free, and take place in Room 301-B at City Hall.