& Co. [VIDEO] featuring Sean Suder and COVID-19's impact on zoning and regulation

Our guest on & Co. episode six was Sean Suder from Calfee Zoning. Sean has been a leader in planning, zoning and city regulations for the last decade. His flexible and adaptive approach to problem solving through regulation has helped several cities and neighborhoods strategically grow. We spoke with Sean about everything from equitable regulations and zoning to the importance of the front porch. Below are five takeaways from our discussion.


Planning commissions and zoning hearings have shifted virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic due to spatial distancing concerns. While this has some positive repercussions it also creates an imbalance of participation, particularly among those without access to the internet and related technology. Whether or not this trend continues it will be critical to diversify the voices and faces in power positions among these commissions, while also ensuring that conversations around change go beyond the meeting and become personal interactions out in the communities where the changes are being proposed.


Public health, safety and welfare are the foundation on which most zoning regulations are developed, but the pandemic is quickly redefining public health and forcing us to rethink which regulations make sense and which don’t in this era of contagion. This sea change is having the biggest impact on how we think about public spaces (streets, sidewalks, plazas, etc.). We can no longer think of these spaces as singular in use, but instead flexible and multi-use. Community gatherings, dining, recreation and entertainment are all uses that could happen in a single day under our current circumstances and modern regulations need to begin to reflect this both temporarily and permanently.


The current context has completely shifted how we think about the modern office. With most everyone working from home and utilizing technology to communicate with coworkers and clients, a shift in how we think about office space will likely be flipped upside down. In many ways this creates the opportunity to work more affordably. With less cost in building infrastructure, office equipment and commute/parking costs we should expect this shift to be fairly permanent and begin developing regulations and strategies around it.


Those who live in walkable complete neighborhoods have likely realized over these last few months just how fortunate they are to have access to essential supplies and services just a short walk or bike ride away. These places were not created accidentally, but instead with specific and intentional guidelines and regulations. Moving forward the concept of the 15 minute neighborhood should begin to be codified or adopted as part of our zoning and growth strategies.


If the front porch was undervalued three months ago, that certainly is not the case today. When developing building regulations in historic or new places, the front porch or stoop should be an important consideration. Its existence can create better social and mental health outcomes, while also helping to create lasting and valuable places.
In partnership with Soapbox Cincinnati and NKY thrives, Yard & Company, launched video podcast series, & Co., focused on solutions, ideas and interventions related to the COVID-19’s impact on cities. Please share.
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