The Land Use Plan Element is an essential part of a municipal Master Plan that: analyzes existing conditions and trends; establishes a vision / goal and objectives for future public and private-sector development, redevelopment, conservation, and infrastructure investments, and provides recommended actions for the municipality to implement to achieve them. The City’s 2016 Master Plan Re-examination Report updated the general vision / goal and objectives for Atlantic City’s Master Plan and Land Use Plan Element; however, much of the 2016 report focused the Tourism District, where land use is regulated by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). It also did not include recommendations for updating the City’s key land use implementation tool, the Land Use Development Ordinance (Ordinance).
Preparation of the 2020 Land Use Plan Element required: a thorough study of land use, demographic, and economic patterns and trends of Atlantic City’s neighborhood areas; analysis of how full implementation of the current Ordinance would change those neighborhood areas; and evaluation of whether those changes, when combined with those anticipated in the Tourism District, would achieve the vision / goal and objectives of Atlantic City’s Master Plan and Land Use Plan Element.
When ERI staff discovered many unrecorded Ordinance and Zoning Map amendments and adopted redevelopment plan amendments, City and County officials provided information through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Because the City had not updated its Zoning Map since 2014 to include these changes or the 2017 Tourism District rezonings, ERI re-digitized part of the City’s Zoning Map to make it current. The Ordinance omitted several basic zoning requirements for minimum lot width, depth, and area in several land use districts, and some district’s maximum heights, floor area ratios, and residential density thresholds,most of which dated from 1978, were completely unrealistic given recent changes in the casion/hospitality industry, current demographic trends, and other factors noted in the 2016 Master Plan Re-examination Report.
ERI staff took all these challenges in stride and revised the scope of the document from comparing historic and current land use condition data to focusing on recommendations to amend the current Ordinance to provide local residents, businesspeople and future investors a more defined and predictable future for the neighborhoods outside the Tourism District. ERI also relied heavily on historic aerial photography, Google Maps, Earth, and Streetview and real estate, property, tax, and other websites to significantly reduce photo documentation, transportation, and land use analysis costs.