Should Zoning Be Simple?

Derick Berlage, Chief of Countywide Planning Division, Prince George’s Planning Department presented “Should Zoning Be Simple?” at the American Planning Association's 2018 National Planning Conference on Saturday, April 21, 2018, in New Orleans, LA. See presentation given. 

Should Zoning Be Simple?

  • Three underlying reasons for the complexity of many contemporary zoning codes
  • Three opportunities to simplify substantive and procedural zoning provisions
  • Three reasons why simple zoning isn’t necessarily better zoning

One of the most common critiques of zoning is that it’s too complicated. Some commentators blame a gluttonous approach to zoning reform, wherein each new idea was added with little concern for page count or administrative efficiency. Others blame a system addicted to discretionary approvals, which necessitates hundreds of pages of procedural standards to avoid the appearance of [BC1] illegal contract zoning.

Few argue with the basic premise that complex zoning standards and procedures favor deep-pocketed developers operating at a grand, long-term scale. But there is no consensus about how to put zoning “on a diet.” In this panel discussion, public- and private-sector zoning experts weighed in on key tensions underlying efforts to simplify zoning. The final portion of the session was devoted to answering questions from attendees.

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Derick P. Berlage, AICP  Chief of Countywide Planning Division

Biography of Derick Berlage

Derick P. Berlage, AICP 
Chief of Countywide Planning Division 
Prince George’s County Planning Department
Upper Marlboro, MD

Derick Berlage is a professional planner and land use attorney who has worked in several Maryland jurisdictions. He is currently the chief of Countywide Planning for Prince George’s County, where he is leading an effort to rewrite the zoning and subdivision ordinances. Previously, he served as director of Land Use and Growth Management for St. Mary’s County, where he oversaw comprehensive revisions to the zoning ordinance.
During his 30-year career, Berlage has been immersed in land use practice from a variety of perspectives. In addition to his work as a professional planner, he has practiced land use law with a national law firm, chaired a county planning commission and regional transportation planning board, and served three terms as an elected county council member in Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, Montgomery County.

Berlage is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Urban Land Institute. He graduated from Princeton University and New York University School of Law.