As Cities move from the traditional Euclidian Zoning of separation of uses to the New Urbanism of concentrated mixed uses, planners are leaving industrial land uses out. Planners in their quest to reduce sprawl resulting from tradition zoning laws, fail to account for industrial uses that do not make good neighbors for mixed-use commercial and residential development. As New Urbanism seeks land that is affordable and located new city centers, inevitably the supply of job producing relatively cheap industrial land is converted into mixed-use or high density residential. This failure can weaken a city’s economic base. As more and more industrial land is converted to mixed-use or residential, the remaining and future industrial uses are faced with growing complaints about truck traffic, noise, smells and other secondary impacts from industrial uses. This further inhibits developers from seeking industrial uses within those cities and thereby precluding future growth. As LIegh and Hoelzel stated in their book “Smart Growth’s Blind Side” “Manufacturing-aware cities also know that efforts to strengthen industrial development can be thwarted by the goals of smart growth development. They recognize that in the absence of a strategy to protect productive industrial areas significant amounts of urban land for industrial users’ will be rezoned, thus precluding future manufacturing growth”.
Planners should look to embrace the goals of New Urbanism but plan and protect Industrial land from the intrusion of Residential Use. Such intrusions will result in a non-harmonious mix of uses, the mixing of heavy truck traffic, normal industrial noise and smells which in turn will generate complainants to City Officials and makes those residential units less desirable to live in.
Cities should look to traditional separation of use zoning and creating overlay districts which protect industrial land as much as their zoning laws protect residential uses from industrial secondary impacts. Planners should keep their eyes wide open and not turn a blind eye towards industrial uses as they seek new urbanism. Industrial land use can coexist with mixed-use and residential uses by means of creative urban designs that provides for attractive buffers, innovative traffic controls and building codes that reduce sounds and odors to a minimum.