What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

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Lyubov
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What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Lyubov »

At the most recent 31 March LUC meeting, a discussion took place concerning whether a particular development is allowed within the zoning specifications for that property. The LUC determined that the zoning for the parcels in question does allow for both "residential" and "commercial" developments and therefore regardless of whether the structure in question is in fact "commercial", the zoning for the area allows the development. However, the LUC remains unclear on what exactly is "commercial" for zoning purposes, and asked the RA to consider the question.

During the next day's RA meeting on 1 April, a definition of "commercial" was discussed. Does "commercial" mean that something must be set for sale for some amount of L$ ? Does some volume of visitor traffic or L$ sales actually need to take place? Would a ground floor "shop" consisting of product displays on mannequins and counters, but no vendors or actual objects set for sale, be "commercial"? How can a restaurant be "commercial" if food is not available for purchase? Must a beauty salon sell services (or makeup, hair?) to qualify? Where does a pub, cafe, or art gallery fit in? If not "commercial", then are these properties "residential" or "industrial" instead?

The RA arrived at a consensus that, "if an entity appears to be commercial in nature, regardless of whether anything is set for sale, it shall be considered commercial for zoning purposes". The RA also agreed that this question should be posted to this Forum for further discussion and comment.

Please share your thoughts regarding, "What is 'Commercial' for Zoning Purposes?". The LUC next meets this coming Sunday and the RA meets the next day, on Monday.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sudane Erato »

I disagree with that definition of "commercial". IMHO, "commercial" means that some sort of commerce is being offered by the owner, with the hope and expectation that visitors would arrive for the purpose, not simply of visiting and enjoying the surrounds, but of considering purchase of the goods or services which the owner offers for sale. IMHO... and I emphasize that this is *my opinion only*... this is why we set up "commercial" areas and areas where "commercial" is banned... it was an issue of the focus of the visitor. They would be there not simply because it was a wonderful place to be and experience, but because it had something for sale.

If the RA definition of "commercial" is made law, the Gasthaus in Monastery would be illegal and have to be removed. There are other current builds as well which are shaped like commercial places, but which serve either as fun places to meet, or places which impart a certain mood. Their sole function is to increase the pleasure of visitors. Banning these places because of an inappropriate definition of "commercial" seems wrong.


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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sylvia Tamalyn »

I totally agree with Sudane.

If one reads back through the history of zoning laws in CDS (a forum search on the word "commercial" is a good start), they will see that the discussion about commercial zoning contemplated actual business being done there. There is even still a law on the law on the books that indicates something similar. Though perhaps not directly on point, NL 9-1 states: "1. COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY means the sale or offering to the public of virtual goods, services, consulting, games or performances."

I think some research into the archives and history of CDS would be helpful before any more laws are contemplated.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sylvia Tamalyn »

Perhaps the LUC and/or RA should start with compiling a list of all current builds that might be affected by such a strict definition of "commercial". Sudane has already pointed out that one of hers would be. Would Pip and Naf's taverna Mexana Monica in AM be disallowed? After all, the covenant for all of AM states "No commercial functions permitted." How about the Fishing Village? It has a couple of cafes. What about the new art museum?

I am wondering how many historic (and newer) locations might be lost due to such an interpretation. Consequences of sweeping laws need to be considered before they are rushed into the books.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Kyoko »

And I agree with Sudane and Sylvia. Entirely.

To interpret "commercial" in terms of "appearance" rather than L$ transactions, would wipe out most of our social spaces. We have used a number of those spaces this term and last for events, including the Gasthaus, during our Pub Crawl.

I hope that further RA discussion will lead to a rethink in terms of what Sudane, Sylvia and I have posted.
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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Rosie Gray »

In my view, 'commercial', for the purposes of our covenants, means not only someone actually selling items in SL, but also what 'appears to be' a business in SL. Otherwise, I don't see a lot of reason to have these terms in the covenants at all. We have our central downtowns in Neufreistadt and in Colonia Nova, and in Locus Amoenus for commercial areas, and some that sprawl out a bit from the downtowns. To me, this makes sense as it does in real life (although don't get me started on 'sprawl' in RL!). There are existing variances which also make sense.

Here are the current covenants that apply specifically to 'commercial' zoning (excerpts).
_____________________________________________________________________________________

From the General Covenants, General Rules: Vendors must be inside of buildings and are only allowed on commercially zoned lots.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Neufreistadt: A) Zones and Typologies:
Zone O – standard parcels: (Outside city walls) Residential only. Commercial activity is prohibited.
Zone I: (Inner city) Commercial and residential use.

*Currently, we have buildings on what was originally conceived as only commercial use in Zone 1, in particular on the platz, that are not actually selling anything, but that appear to be commercial businesses. i.e. the Hairdressing Salon, the Irish Pub, the Sake place, the MoCa cafe and a few others. And, there are a few businesses that actually have things for sale. The way I see it is that having businesses that both sell items, and that appear to be businesses add life and realism to the area. It feels like a downtown because of the Irish Pub, the cafes and hairdresser, as well as because of the shops that have things for sale.

If we look at the now repealed law, NL 4-2 Marketplatz Zoning Act, we see that originally this central hub was expected to be commercial and to make money. We've repealed this law, because in the current iteration of SL, this doesn't make sense anymore. It's difficult for small creators to sell much; but we still want to have a commercial area, because they are the centres of community life in real life.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Monastery: Monastery is a residential sim with the exception of the Monastery itself. Commercial functions are not permitted.
*Currently, we have the Gasthaus on one of the parcels. This is entirely appropriate as the countryside in real life has the odd stand-alone little pub or inn. A variance allows this.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Alpine Meadow: No commercial functions permitted.
*Currently, we have the Mexana Monica, a Bulgarian style restaurant. This is the same as the Gasthaus in Monastery in that it fits well with the idea of a countryside restaurant. Also, the new Viktoria Luise Museum of Art which is 1/2 on Colonia Nova and 1/2 on Alpine Meadow. A variance allows these too.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Colonia Nova
Zones and Typologies


Zone R (Villa Quarter) and Zone L (South Riverfront Plots) - 3. Residential only 4. Commercial activity is prohibited.
Zone C (Inner City) 12. Commercial and residential use.
Zone E (Cardo Plots) 25. Mixed commercial and residential use

*Currently there is nothing outside of these covenants requiring a variance other than the new fishing village and possibly the new Viktoria Luise Museum of Art which has a variance. (are museum's commercial?). With the new Stella Marina fishing village, a new covenant must be developed to include it and updates to the forum buildings. This is now on the LUC's Agenda.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Locus Amoenus
Zoning Information:1. Zone H: (Harbor and beachfront) a. Commercial and residential
2. Zone C: (Countryside) a. Residential only. Commercial activity is prohibited.
Zone F: (Fishing Village) a. Mixed commercial and residential, small in scale

*Currently there is only the Vista Abbondante agriturismo property in Zone C that is outside of the covenant. Again, this being inside a Tuscan style farmhouse makes perfect sense and a variance allows this.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

For anyone worried about any current buildings being removed if we define 'commercial' as "if an entity appears to be commercial in nature, regardless of whether anything is set for sale, it shall be considered commercial for zoning purposes", I would put you at ease. There is nothing that isn't currently appropriate that would need to change. My concern is for future development and keeping the character of Residential and Countryside where we have indicated it. There is a difference between those and areas deemed for commercial or mixed usage, and I think that defining commercial to include 'what appears to be a business' in the definition is warranted so that we have a way to maintain our residential and rural areas. Also, there is always the ability to ask for a variance so that any new cases could be taken on their indiviual merits.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sylvia Tamalyn »

Every single building you listed has a variance! If you proceed with the plan to define "commercial" so strictly (despite the opposition of the citizens that have posted so far), what is to stop a future chancellor from revoking all those variances?

Again, I think serious consideration needs to be given to the *consequences* of what is being proposed here. I think, contrary to what you said, that there is indeed reason for owners of those establishments to worry. You may envision that chancellors will always be reasonable, but I think history pretty clearly says otherwise.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sudane Erato »

If all these "commercial" buildings are allowed in areas where "commercial" is prohibited, by way of a variance... then I think we need to restate the covenants. "Commercial" is simply obviously not prohibited... "Commercial" is allowed in these areas only by receiving a variance first. And if the owner receives a variance, it must surely survive through a change of administrations.

If "commercial" has to be defined that way, say it like it is, and in such a way that its existence there has a fair protection. Seems easier to simply define "commercial" differently... but... fair enough; if the consensus is with the RA interpretation, please restate the covenants to be accurate.


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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Kyoko »

I never knew that I HAD a variance for the Agriturismo in LA. I never asked for one. And it never occurred to me that I might need one.

I'm with Sylvia. The strict definition of commercial sets up another limit that has to be checked. Is it really a problem? Apparently we are doing fine without it.

If anything I think the more useful distinction is between what a "downtown" is and what "countryside" is. If it were up to me I'd rewrite the covenants using that distinction.
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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Rosie Gray »

Kyoko wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:45 am
I never knew that I HAD a variance for the Agriturismo in LA. I never asked for one. And it never occurred to me that I might need one.
I think you gave that variance to yourself, Ms. Chancellor! :roll: And to be fair, they have mostly been a matter of not making the person change what they have done. These situations have usually arisen when the parcel owner hasn't read the covenant and doesn't realize they are in a residential-only area.
Last edited by Rosie Gray on Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:54 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Rosie Gray »

Sudane Erato wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 3:30 am
If all these "commercial" buildings are allowed in areas where "commercial" is prohibited, by way of a variance... then I think we need to restate the covenants. "Commercial" is simply obviously not prohibited... "Commercial" is allowed in these areas only by receiving a variance first. And if the owner receives a variance, it must surely survive through a change of administrations.

If "commercial" has to be defined that way, say it like it is, and in such a way that its existence there has a fair protection. Seems easier to simply define "commercial" differently... but... fair enough; if the consensus is with the RA interpretation, please restate the covenants to be accurate.


Sudane.........................
Defining 'commercial' is what this thread is all about! Once I realized that there were different interpretations of what it meant, I thought that it would be best to create a definition when there is nothing contentious, rather than waiting until someone wanted to do something that was, and then trying to argue it.
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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Kyoko »

Just two quick points.

1. For me the operative distinction is city vs countryside. That makes more sense to me than commercial vs non-commercial. You don't need variances then. It's a more organic way of handling the conundrum.

I wrote a long #2 and deleted it. To me it boils down to hanging what is and isn't permitted in an area on the wrong peg. Commercial vs non-commercial does not make sense in our community. City/town/village vs. countryside is much more organic and easier to understand.

I do strongly oppose the redefinition as proposed.
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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Sylvia Tamalyn »

I agree with Kyoko. I don't see the term "commercial" being particularly relevant to CDS these days, much less needing a burdensome new definition. It's clear from this thread that there are "commercial" builds scattered all over CDS in "non-commercial" locations, and that no one seems to have issue with this as long as they look like they fit in with the surroundings.

That being said, Kyoko's suggestion that the focus change to "city vs countryside" makes the most sense. If you must have something in the covenants to address what appears to be a non-issue, then I suggest working on an official way to say "if your build looks OK in its surroundings, then carry on!" rather than "No! You must request a variance!"

As our friend Tan has often said "let's not complicate things" (paraphrased because I don't speak as elegantly as he does).

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Han Held »

I agree with Kyoko, Sudane and Sylvia -this sounds like a measure that is going to have more negative consequences than positive effects.

I don't understand what the exact, the specific problem is that this is intended to solve.

Do we have rotating red FOR SALE signs up in Alpine Meadows? Has someone set up a telehub trap in Monastery that has escaped my notice? Have strip malls sprung up in Friedsee?

What is the problem we're trying to solve?
What is the motive for trying to solve it now?
What's the rush?

In addition to "let's not complicate things" I'd also throw out the pithy (but appropriate!) "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"

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Re: What is "Commercial" for Zoning Purposes?

Post by Lilith Ivory »

I have been in several "Covenant Commissions" over the years and whenever we talked about commercial/residental zoning we had buildings in mind where citizens tried to make money by selling items. That's why we were talking about "vendors must be inside" and "no big full bright rotating ad signs"
At this time we had a few citizens in CDS who actually tried to earn L$ by selling items in CDS. Textures, Buildings and … coughs … Togas come in mind. I doubt those merchants were able to even cover their tier with their sales back then. And as the SL economy became more tough over time it´s even less likely now a merchant would pick CDS as mainstore location. Most successful stores are big and open and of course we don´t want that in our residential areas - or anywhere else in CDS. Don´t we?

On the other hand we have to keep in mind that rural areas historically are commercial in RL
Farns, vineyards, mills and Tor's winery would need to get a variance too. If we follow the "if it looks commercial it is commercial" rule one would be commercial as soon as one has some cows, sheep or goats out :)

As a sideline: It turns my stomach to see what happens in the RL Alps and many small idyllic villages in Bavaria. Traditional farms and farmland gets sold and turned into weekend homes for the rich. I really don´t want to think about CDS as a place like this.

So pretty please let´s not make our SL and selling land in CDS more difficult as it is already.

In my opinion we should:
  • define commercial as "really trying to sell something"
  • change most covenants so both commercial and residential are allowed. With exceptions for downtown NFS and CN where the 1th floor has to be commercial or looking like being commercial and perhaps Monastery and Friedsee as to my knowing LL does not allow real commerce on a homestead.
I really don´t see why a citizen should not be allowed to put some vendors inside of a house that looks good and is build in alliance with our covenants.

Instead of restricting ourselves with zoning we should have another look at the high limits of buildings.
While we have/had several buildings in CDS which look perfectly fine being partly 20m high, this high limit also allows 4 floor high monstrosities and if it is a villa, apartment building or an alpine castle we would have a very hard time to disallow it.
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