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What is an Urban Design Overlay?

Buildings along Bedford Avenue

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 allow for development standards above and beyond those in the base zoning. UDOs do not affect the uses allowed or prohibited on a property.

Where are UDOs located?

Existing UDOs

When are UDOs used? Who can request them?

Houses in Carothers Crossing

A UDO can be used to translate a small area plan from planning policy into zoning code that has regulatory power. Metro Planning prioritizes UDOs that are linked to small area plans, because the planning process involves the community in envisioning its future.

A UDO can be created / requested in three ways:

  • Metro Planning Commission,
  • Council Member(s), or
  • Property owners.

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
  • UDO must be approved by Metro Council.

How is the UDO used?Sidewalk in Hillsboro Village

UDOs contain regulating plans and design standards that have the same force and effect as the standards of the base zoning district. Any final development construction plans submitted for approval 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 - number of residential units allowed
  • Floor area (mixed use and non-residential uses) - amount of square footage that can be built
  • Impervious surface - area with paving and building

What other items can be addressed by a UDO?

  • 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

What items cannot be addressed by a UDO?

  • Uses
  • Stormwater standards