118-119

Land Use and Zoning in Delray

Click here to see all narratives on Delray

Click here to see a timeline of events in Delray

Click here to see resources for further reading on Delray

Euclidean (300px-height)

In 1926, a landmark court case was upheld in the Supreme Court that declared that zoning codes are a valid extension of a local government’s rights to regulate land uses in the name of protecting public health, safety, and welfare (Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926)). This type of single-use zoning became known as Euclidian Zoning, after the village in which the case was famously fought. Euclidian zoning essentially segregates different parcels of land based on single uses, placing housing in certain places, commercial retail in others, and industrial factories in still other zones. This became standard zoning practice nationwide shortly after it was upheld in court, but interestingly enough, its arrival in Detroit met some resistance.

In the 1940 Planning Commission Annual Report, the writers insinuated that the pushback stemmed from the belief that Euclidian zoning infringed on private property rights. Despite these reservations, by 1943 the City of Detroit had adopted a Zoning Ordinance as well as a Master Plan. Generally, Euclidian zoning has been heralded as a sprawl-encouraging land use plan, since isolating and segregating uses to avoid noise and pollution generally means that a private personal vehicle will be required to travel from one use to the other.

In the context of Delray, however, as well as other Industrial neighborhoods and pockets such as Nortown, Euclidian Zoning did not appear to have that effect. The typically working-class immigrants and minorities who historically moved to Delray for ease of walking to work established their residences right next to heavy industry zones, and the City of Detroit allowed it to continue. This can be attributed to a general lack of voice within the community, similar to the process of annexation of the neighborhood. As a result, Delray residents experienced the negative side effects of living right next to heavy pollution, and experienced worse health and wellbeing relative to neighboring communities without industry. Starting with the publication of the Master Plan, the City essentially treated Delray as an industrial zone, paying little regard to the residents in the area. This continued for decades, and through the construction of the isolating I-75 and the ongoing transformation of land to heavy industry in the area.

Around 2002, discussions around the desire for redundancy in the aftermath of 9/11 led the United States and Canada to begin to pursue project proposals for a new Detroit River Crossing in addition to the Ambassador Bridge, this time owned by the public. Just as in the case of freeway construction through low-income neighborhoods five decades earlier, the path of least resistance led these parties to site their new bridge in Delray, where around 3,000 residents would have to be displaced to make room for the new customs plaza and bridge footprint. This led to a zoning change in 2004, when all of Delray was labelled M-4, including the homes in the area. The distinction for M-4 Zoning is as follows: This district will permit uses which are usually objectionable and, therefore, the district is rarely, if ever, located adjacent to residential districts. A broad range of uses is permitted in this district. New residences are prohibited with the exception of loft conversions of existing buildings and of residential uses combined in structures with permitted commercial uses. These requirements are to protect residences from an undesirable environment and to ensure reservation of adequate areas for industrial development.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 5.24.20 PM

This reclassification of Delray was the last nail in the coffin for the housing values of many of the residents in Delray. There were now extremely high barriers for anyone who wanted to move into the area, and those whose homes did not fall in the footprint of the new bridge were essentially left without any options to move away and improve their health and wellbeing. Many homes there were simply abandoned, further decreasing home values. Comparing the zoning maps from 1943 to to most recent zoning maps from the City of Detroit website, the extreme majority of the parcels originally zoned for residential use are now labelled distressed. This perfectly demonstrated the single-use zoning hole that the residents of Delray fell into, and the lack of protection that the City of Detroit gave them in the process.

Click here to see all narratives on Delray

Click here to see a timeline of events in Delray

Click here to see resources for further reading on Delray

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>