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Planning Department

What is an Urban Design Overlay?

Urban Design Overlay

An Urban Design Overlay, or UDO, is a zoning tool that requires specific design standards for development in a designated area. A UDO is used to either protect the pre-existing character of the area or to create a character that would not otherwise be ensured by the development standards in the base zoning district.

UDOs overlay the current base zoning and allow for development standards above and beyond those in the base zoning.

Where are UDOs located?

Existing UDOs

When are UDOs used? Who can request them?

A Council Member can request that Metro Planning create a UDO for a neighborhood. A UDO can be used to translate a Detailed Neighborhood Design Plan, or DNDP, from planning policy into zoning code with regulatory power. Metro Planning prioritizes UDOs that are linked to DNDPs, because the DNDP process involves the community in envisioning its future.

Developers can also apply for a UDO. Since it is a zone change, a UDO request follows the same procedure as a zone change:

  • Submission to Metro Planning for review,
  • Review and recommendation by Metro Planning staff,
  • Public hearing at Metro Planning Commission,
  • Metro Planning Commission recommendation to Metro Council,
  • Three readings (including public hearing on second reading) at Metro Council, and
  • The UDO must be approved by Metro Council.

How is the UDO used?

UDOs often contain regulating plans and design standards that have the same force and effect as the standards set forth in the base zoning district. Any final development construction plans submitted for approval under the UDO must be reviewed for adherence to the developed standards in the UDO. Our Community Design division reviews the construction plans within UDOs.

What development standards can be regulated through a UDO?

Building placement, size and height

  • Lot area
  • Building coverage
  • Building setback - front, side and rear
  • Encroachments into setback areas – awnings, overhangs, porches, walls, accessory buildings, etc.
  • Building height
  • Density (residential intensity)
  • Floor area ratio (mixed use and non-residential uses) = total gross floor area / total site area
  • Impervious surface ratio = area with paving and building / total site area

Other items that can be controlled under this subject

  • Architectural features such as floor to floor height, window area and treatment, building materials, spacing of columns, recesses in the face of a building, entryway characteristics, etc.

Streetscape elements

  • Sidewalk requirements and design
  • Planting strip requirements and design
  • Street furniture, outdoor dining, and other active uses
  • Bikeway facilities and design
  • Bicycle parking
  • Mass transit facilities
  • Access points and design
  • Intersection improvements

Parking and Loading

  • Quantity of parking (on and off-site), including shared parking arrangements
  • Location of off-site parking
  • Placement of on-site parking
  • Size, location and number of loading spaces
  • Visibility at intersections and driveways

Landscaping and buffering

  • Plant types, sizes and placement
  • Alternatives to plants - for example, materials, size, and placement of walls and fences
  • Buffering between zoning districts (yard width, planting intensity, berming)
  • Permitted uses in buffer yards
  • Placement and screening of mechanical equipment, dumpsters, etc.
  • Landscaping maintenance standards
  • Perimeter and interior landscaping of parking lots


  • Placement, sizes, number, shapes and types of signs (ground, pole mounted, wall mounted, roof mounted, canopy)
  • Animation, lighting, materials
  • Exemptions from regulation