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Visual Enhancement of Zoning Bylaws

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An important, but often overlooked, challenge facing planners is to ensure that their community’s zoning bylaws or ordinances can be readily understood by applicants and by the general public. At the same time, zoning bylaws must be detailed and thorough enough to cover a multitude of situations, and must be capable of being effectively enforced. As most planners come to realize, in trying to balance the need for simplicity and comprehensiveness, zoning bylaws present a quite demanding form of communication. Compounding the problem is that fact that many communities include a growing number of immigrants and residents whose second language is English.

One way to deal effectively with this challenge is to add illustrations to the zoning bylaw without changing the wording of the provisions themselves. A related option is to supplement the zoning ordinance with public information bulletins that can both illustrate and explain various sections of the ordinance.

portion of page in zoning ordinance with illustrations accompanying text

This article will explore both of these techniques through the experience gained in the recent zoning bylaw graphic enhancement process for the City of New Westminster in British Columbia.

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