Chicago enacts transit-oriented Connected Communities Ordinance
On July 20, 2022, the Chicago City Council adopted a series of amendments to the City’s Zoning Ordinance designed to incentivize high-density development and affordable housing near passenger train stations and along public bus routes. The Connected Communities Ordinance doubled the radius for eligible transit-served locations and added eligible bus corridors, significantly expanding the available locations for bulk and density increases and parking reductions for projects with on-site affordable housing.
The Ordinance modifies the pre-existing requirements and special benefits for developments within one quarter-mile of an expanded range of bus line corridors, or within one half-mile of any CTA or METRA rail station entrance or exit. The expanded one-half-mile radius previously only applied for properties located on designated pedestrian streets. Therefore, the Ordinance significantly expanded the availability of these benefits City-wide.
Within such transit-served locations:
- Parking may now be reduced by up to 50 percent by-right and by up to 100 percent upon approval of an administrative adjustment – and projects with at least 50 percent affordable housing are eligible for a reduction of up to 100 percent by-right. These parking reductions are now available in certain residential districts and PMD subarea B districts (previously only available in B, C and D districts). Additionally, parking reductions greater than 50 percent for residential uses previously required approval of a special use, re-zoning or planned development; under the new Ordinance, all reductions can be approved with an administrative adjustment.
- In B, C and D districts, any development must comply with the City’s Transit Friendly Development Guide and Travel Demand Study and Management Plan, as well as with the setback requirements of pedestrian streets, even if not located along a pedestrian street. Residential projects must limit parking to 50 percent of otherwise applicable minimums.
- Residential projects that reduce parking below 50 percent of required minimums, as well as maximize minimum lot area and floor-area ratio, are eligible to apply square footage that would have been used for parking toward affordable housing without impacting FAR.
- The Ordinance creates a concept of an “inclusionary application,” which is a zoning application (Type 1 or planned development) for a transit-served location in which all required affordable units are provided on site or in which 20 percent of more of its dwelling units are restricted affordable housing units. Applicants for inclusionary applications may request Zoning Committee action on their application if the Committee fails to vote within 300 days of the filing of a complete inclusionary application, but they are required to hold at least one community meeting in the applicable ward prior to the Committee hearing.
- The following off-street parking requirements will apply to transit-served locations:
- Residential projects must limit parking to 50 percent of otherwise applicable minimums unless an administrative adjustment is approved to increase the number of parking spaces (up to 100 percent of the applicable minimum).
- Residential projects must include at least one bicycle parking space per dwelling unit, and non-residential projects must include at least one bicycle space for every automobile parking space required under otherwise applicable minimums – that is, 100 percent of the minimum, as opposed to the 50 percent cap imposed in transit-served locations.
- The Ordinance imposes new restrictions on the construction of detached houses. In RT and RM, and in all B and C districts, detached houses are prohibited in any community preservation area that is within an eligible transit-served location.
- Also of note, the Ordinance excludes the area of stairway and elevator enclosures and elevator equipment penthouses for purposes of calculating FAR (subject to certain size limits), encourages the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on roofs and loosens the restrictions around residential conversions by allowing “younger” buildings – that is, those that are at least 20 years old instead of 50 years old – to be grandfathered administratively.