They were mixed use before mixed use was cool.
Overlay districts have been around for years, but are no longer the only tools cities have to control land use, impose restrictions or allow for additional uses in particular areas.
In fact, many say these districts, which place an additional level of zoning regulations on top of an area’s existing zoning, can be too confusing.
To help alleviate that confusion, cities like Jackson are looking at other means to accomplish their zoning goals, such as through the use of mixed-use districts.
That’s not to say that existing districts are going away. Some, like the Eastover Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, are working well.
Rather, there are simply other tools available to cities to accomplish certain land use needs, according to Jackson Zoning Administrator Ester Ainsworth.
“With an overlay, you create a second layer of zoning regulations. With mixed-use, you can put all the regulations in one area,” said she said.
Mixed-use classifications allow for a myriad of uses in one area, but all uses are included in one set of zoning guidelines.
By contrast, overlays “blanket” areas that could have multiple zoning classifications, from parcels zoned for high-density residential to commercial.
Examples of where mixed-use districts have been implemented in the city include the District at Eastover and Tapestry Northridge at the site of the now defunct Colonial Country Club.
The District includes apartments, restaurants, professional offices and a hotel. The first phase of Tapestry Northridge will include 220 apartments.
The city of Jackson approved rezoning the Tapestry site into a traditional mixed-use development in 2016. The District’s 21 acres were granted a CMU-1, commercial mixed-use designation, in 2012. Just last year, the city council approved rezoning the Meadowbrook Office Park to CMU-1.
CMU-1 allows for a variety of uses, including retail shops, hotels, offices, restaurants, colleges, theaters, shopping centers and residential units.
Even with new mixed-use districts on the rise, overlays still dot the Northside, with the majority in place to restrict certain land uses. The Eastover Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, for example, prohibits lots there from being subdivided into sizes of less than an acre.
The district was expanded to serve the entire Eastover area nine years ago.
Its rules are more restrictive than the neighborhood’s R-1A, single-family residential classification. By comparison, R-1A lots can be as small as 10,000 square feet, or a quarter of an acre.
Residents there petitioned the city for help, after noticing several developers buying up older homes, demolishing them and building several zero-lot-line homes on the lots.
They were worried that the new infill developments would destroy the character of the neighborhood, which is known for its large lots and dense tree canopies.
“Without (the overlay), we would not have a means to address our subdividing concerns,” Greater Eastover Neighborhood Foundation Executive Director Dana Robertson told the Sun previously.
Similar overlays were created for the Sundial community in Madison and the Old Agency Road area in Ridgeland.
The Sundial overlay governs lot size, setbacks and the allowance of barns, which are not allowed in the area under the city’s zoning regulations.
“Sundial … was annexed in 2008 and they wanted to keep some of the regulations they had when they were part of the county,” Madison Director of Community Development Kianca Stringfellow said.
The Old Agency Road Corridor Preservation District, meanwhile, was put in place to “preserve the unique features of Old Agency Road,” according to Ridgeland Director of Community Development Alan Hart.
Those unique features include the fact that Old Agency is considered a “canopy road” with “unique natural beauty created by trees that line both sides of the road,” according to the city’s ordinance.
The ordinance is designed to protect that canopy by preventing certain uses, limiting building height and lot size, and requiring permits to remove trees located within the Old Agency Road landmark area.
While those overlays have proven successful, residents have petitioned to have them removed elsewhere.
In Belhaven, the Fortification Street Overlay District was repealed and new zoning was put in place along the corridor.
Prior to 2005, the corridor was a “patchwork quilt of zoning that made no sense,” said Council President Virgi Lindsay. “We worked with the city and did a comprehensive rezoning, thought about what it should be and it became the city’s first mixed-use district.”
Lindsay said the change has allowed for exponential growth there, including the construction of the Belhaven commercial building, its parking garage and the surrounding condominiums.
Unlike places like Eastover, Sundial and Old Agency, which all have similar zoning classifications throughout, Fortification had a mix of commercial and residential zonings along the street.
Confusion for potential developers was only intensified by the presence of the overlay, Lindsay explained.
“It caused a lot of confusion, especially when you had a patchwork quilt underneath,” she said. “This takes the mystery out of it.”