Design Standards versus Performance Standards

Visitor Question: If design standards and performance standards appear in the same division of a development code, can both be used to bring a code violation into compliance?

Here's the problem: a design standard says that glare levels from a commercial parking lot are determined by light readings and if below 0.5 footcandles, then the floodlight glare is in compliance. Then, in that same division under performance standards, there is a sentence that says all lighting shall be directed away from adjacent residential properties, but only the readings are used to determine a valid complaint.

Why can't both be used together where substantial light trespass and glare from a commercial floodlight is concerned?

Editors Comment: We are not sure we have understood the question, and we apologize for the long delay in answering. However, the basic premise of the question, which we understand to be how to deal with complementary or conflicting design and performance standards, deserves some comment from us. We hope it will be helpful to you and others.

We interpret that the issue here might be that the performance standards speak to the direction of the lighting away from residential property, but the design standards do not. In that case, our experience is that we should take a "both/and" approach, requiring both a reading below a specified measurement of footcandles and the direction of lighting away from residences. A best practice for planners and code enforcement officials would be to simultaneously address a seeming inconsistency, or at least a lack of clarity, in the development regulations so they are not faced with the same situation ambiguity again.

At a minimum, your development codes should state that if performance standards and design standards or guidelines address the same condition, all requirements of both sets of standards must be met. If not, then your code should state that the situation is a code violation.

However, perhaps your question is simpler than that. We think maybe you mean that you want code compliance officials to cite both design standards and performance standards in their notice of violation. That makes perfect sense to us. Maybe the penalties for violation of each are different, and if so, that could be useful. Or perhaps you are thinking that fines or injunctions would be more severe if the violation refers to two separate sections of the code. That too could be strategic thinking, although it would not make much difference to an experienced municipal judge.

The broader lesson for all readers is that your cities, and in particular your planning commissions, need to be thinking frequently about potentially confusing and potentially contradictory statements in different sets of standards. Simplify codes whenever possible without sacrificing their meaning. Think carefully about potential overlap between design and performance, and if you believe that a particular requirement should be called out in both sets of standards, make the wording identical so that there is no confusion. If you intend that the failure to meet each set of standards should result in two separate code violations, say so.

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