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Planned Unit Developments

Updated on July 6, 2009
Urban Living, Reston, by La Cita Vitta
Urban Living, Reston, by La Cita Vitta

What is a Planned Unit Development?

Simply put, it is a planned development of a large area of land. It also can be and usually is the series of land use regulations that facilitate such development. PUDs as they are now known, are currently one of the most popular suburban and exurban development schemes in place today. In some jurisdictions, it is almost impossible to get new development approval unless it is a PUD or similar concept.

PUDs have been around for a long time. In the past they have gone by different names in different countries or at different times. New towns, master planned community, sometimes new urban development – all are PUDs in one form or another. The idea has always been to build a new community that provides much of the function of an older and mature town or city. Housing includes a variety of types, schools, local shopping facilities, parks, playgrounds, and even industrial areas may be included in a plan that melds these together to offer the resident and visitor optimal living and work experiences.

Places like Levittowns, Reston, VA, Las Colinas near Dallas, Coral Gables, FL, Mission Viejo, CA are all examples of earlier planned communities. Similar master planned communities exist throughout the world. Newer developments in include Seaside, FL, an example of New Urbanism, or the 30 year old Woodlands, TX, a large and very successful development north of Houston.

Today, land use have become more regulated than at any time in American history. Almost all new developments will receive some type of protest from nearby residents. They bought where they did because they liked it like it was. Change threatens their environment and therefore threatens their quality of life and, they assume, the value of their property. The regulation that PUDs offer can help assuage the concerns of residents near a new development. They know what can and cannot go into the new development. They know that the development has been designed to enhance the living experience of residents and hopefully will enhance the quality of life for nearby residents.

Some characteristics of these PUD regulations are:

  • A mix of housing types and land uses.

  • A maximum amount of green space while accommodating profitable housing development.

  • An easy way to set aside and override current land use regulation for the property in question. The land can be rezoned in toto.

  • Easier site plan review and easier administration of land use regulations for the jurisdiction while optimizing profit potential for the developer.

Today's PUDs can range in size from 100 acres to thousands of acres. Larger PUDs may be called a master planned community and may not fit neatly into the regulatory definition for a PUD within a particular jurisdiction.

We are likely to see more PUDs and other types of planned communities develop in today's regulatory environment and in an environment where neighborhood activists are willing to sit for hours to have a say in what is going to be built down the block or a half mile away from their own development. But it does remain to be seen how and if the housing bust changes the future of new developments and land use regulation.


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    • Dink96 profile image

      Dink96 8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I have worked in transactional real estate and seen a lot of these from the contract end of things. Interesting concept and you are right, it's the way things are going, however I sometimes find some of the restrictions, shall we say, fascinating. And I'll leave it at that! Very nice hub.