Manhattan Development Code (MDC)

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Manhattan’s Development Code Is Ready!

The City of Manhattan has been working to update and modernize the City’s development regulations for the past few years. After spending time, researching, discussing issues, drafting, and editing, Manhattan's new development code is ready for final review and adoption.

The Manhattan Development Code (MDC) is an important set of regulations that defines how the City will preserve its character, protect its resources, and grow and redevelop in the future. These regulations are bound to touch everyone's lives. Whether you want to build an addition to your home, buy a piece of land to build a new business on, or drive, bike, or walk to work or school. The MDC addresses each of these topics and more.

Follow Along!

Overviews and detailed information on new and updated regulations will be provided here over the next six months. Several informational meetings will be held with the citizen-held Ordinance Advisory Committee, the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board, and the Manhattan City Commission to review the Manhattan Development Code and then begin the formal adoption process.


A Change to the Project's Name

Originally, the project was titled the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which described unifying two separate codes related to development, the Manhattan Urban Area Subdivision Regulations and the Manhattan Zoning Regulations, into one integrated document. The title of the project has evolved to the Manhattan Development Code (MDC), as it is anticipated that the community will eventually forget that the City had two separate documents regulating development, and just naturally refer to the new project as the development code. So, the project name has changed, but its purpose has not.

EncodePlus - An Innovative Way to use the Development Code

Kendig Keast Collaborative, White & Smith LLC, Gateway Planning Group, and Confluence were hired to assist the City and the Community Development Department to draft the regulations and organize the code structure to make it user-friendly, searchable, and easier for citizens, businesses, property owners, consultants, and developers to understand. The MDC will be published on EncodePlus, a software created by Kendig Keast Collaborative that is designed to be easy to navigate and help understand and use the development code. Check out the new Manhattan Development Code at Unified Development Ordinance (encodeplus.com).

The work done by our citizen advisors, the project consultant team, and City staff are to ensure that Manhattan stays an attractive, vibrant, and safe place to live, work and play for years to come.

Manhattan’s Development Code Is Ready!

The City of Manhattan has been working to update and modernize the City’s development regulations for the past few years. After spending time, researching, discussing issues, drafting, and editing, Manhattan's new development code is ready for final review and adoption.

The Manhattan Development Code (MDC) is an important set of regulations that defines how the City will preserve its character, protect its resources, and grow and redevelop in the future. These regulations are bound to touch everyone's lives. Whether you want to build an addition to your home, buy a piece of land to build a new business on, or drive, bike, or walk to work or school. The MDC addresses each of these topics and more.

Follow Along!

Overviews and detailed information on new and updated regulations will be provided here over the next six months. Several informational meetings will be held with the citizen-held Ordinance Advisory Committee, the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board, and the Manhattan City Commission to review the Manhattan Development Code and then begin the formal adoption process.


A Change to the Project's Name

Originally, the project was titled the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which described unifying two separate codes related to development, the Manhattan Urban Area Subdivision Regulations and the Manhattan Zoning Regulations, into one integrated document. The title of the project has evolved to the Manhattan Development Code (MDC), as it is anticipated that the community will eventually forget that the City had two separate documents regulating development, and just naturally refer to the new project as the development code. So, the project name has changed, but its purpose has not.

EncodePlus - An Innovative Way to use the Development Code

Kendig Keast Collaborative, White & Smith LLC, Gateway Planning Group, and Confluence were hired to assist the City and the Community Development Department to draft the regulations and organize the code structure to make it user-friendly, searchable, and easier for citizens, businesses, property owners, consultants, and developers to understand. The MDC will be published on EncodePlus, a software created by Kendig Keast Collaborative that is designed to be easy to navigate and help understand and use the development code. Check out the new Manhattan Development Code at Unified Development Ordinance (encodeplus.com).

The work done by our citizen advisors, the project consultant team, and City staff are to ensure that Manhattan stays an attractive, vibrant, and safe place to live, work and play for years to come.

  • Welcome to the Manhattan Development Code

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    We Are Pleased To Introduce The Manhattan Development Code

    The Manhattan Development Code (MDC), formerly known as the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is drafted and is ready for community review. This project originally began in 2017 when the City contracted with Kending Keast Collaborative to review the current development regulations and draft a modern development code that combines the City’s zoning and subdivision regulations. The project was originally called the Unified Development Ordinance because it unified two separate sets of regulations (Manhattan Zoning Regulations and the Manhattan Urban Area Subdivision Regulations) into one document. Since the beginning of the project, its name has evolved to the Manhattan Development Code, which is to convey the set of requirements and procedures that regulate development in our community. We in the Community Development Department recognize that this has been a drawn-out project and that people may have forgotten its purpose and elements of the draft regulations presented some time ago. To re-orient you to the Manhattan Development Code (MDC), we invite you to watch this brief introductory video.


    What Are Development Regulations And Why Are They Important?

    We realize that most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about zoning and subdivision regulations, or how these requirements shape our neighborhoods, where we work, shop, and play, or how we get to and from these places by car, bus, bike, or walking. However, these regulations play a significant part in our daily lives. Our friends at Phoenix, Arizona’s Community and Economic Development Department have created an amazing Zoning 101 video that explains the nuts and bolts of these development regulations – you should check it out!

    Come Back To Stay Informed

    The Community Development Department is committed to providing as much information about this draft of the Manhattan Development Code (MDC) as possible to keep you informed of the proposed regulation and procedure and the next steps in the review and adoption process. Over the next several months, staff will be provided news feeds and videos of the different articles of the MDC to give you an overview of those individual sections. Please come back to www.EngageMHK.com for more information. The next installment will be about Articles 1 - 3 of the draft development code.

  • Article 8, Procedures and Administration - Not exciting, but important stuff!

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    Along with other updates and changes to zoning and subdivision regulations, the Community Development Department is proposing several changes to the administrative steps for approval of developments. Article 8, Procedures and Administration, outlines who makes decisions on different development applications, what processes each application type will be required to follow, and how violations will be enforced.

    Admittedly, this is not an earth-shaking set of regulations, but it is important information to make sure that home and business owners, developers, and neighbors know what steps must be taken to have a subdivision or construction project approve and constructed.

    As always, we hope you find this video informative. If you have any comments or questions about the Manhattan Development Code, this article, or the previous articles, please submit them in the Questions tab above.



  • Big Changes for Off-Street Parking in the MDC!

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    Ben Chmiel, Long-Range Planner III, provides another fantastic overview of Article 26-7, Site Development. This article covers vehicle off-street parking, new bicycle parking requirements, landscaping requirements for parking lots and screening, business signage, and lighting standards. The topics found in this article help shape the look and feel of our community, especially our commercial areas.

    If you have questions or thoughts on these standards or any other part of the MDC, please drop us a line in the Questions tab above – we are excited to hear what you and your neighbors think about the draft regulations.


  • Design Standards Keep Our Community Attractive and Vibrant (Part 1)

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    Here is another installment of an overview video of an article of the Manhattan Development Code. In this latest video, Ben Chmiel, Planner III, gives an overview of residential design standards found in Article 26-4A. The draft regulations can be found on the Manhattan Development Code EncodePlus site.

    The City has had design standards in some shape or form for a few residential districts or overlay districts for nearly 20 years. These site layout and exterior building design standards set minimum requirements to make sure new development or redevelopment keeps our community looking attractive and vibrant, meets the intended purpose of the applicable district, and/or keeps these developments compatible with the surrounding area.

    We hope you find this video informative. If you have any comments or questions about the Manhattan Development Code, this article, or the previous articles, please submit them in the Questions table above.


  • Design Standards Keep Our Community Attractive and Vibrant (Part 2)

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    To carry on with the overview of the proposed design standards in the Manhattan Development Code (MDC), John Adam, Senior Long Range Planner, discusses the draft requirements for commercial districts and uses. As John puts it, not all commercial developments are the same, some have good architectural character, others have solid internal transportation layouts for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, and others focus on landscaping. These commercial design standards create a minimum bar for the community to make sure Manhattan continues to look great, attract people to our stores, restaurants, and other businesses, and function well both within the development and with the surrounding sidewalks, trails, and roads.

    If you have questions or thoughts on these standards or any other part of the MDC, please drop us a line in the Questions tab above – we are excited to hear what you and your neighbors think about the draft regulations.

  • Manhattan and Riley County’s Partnership in Planning

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    Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board Jurisdiction The City of Manhattan and Riley County entered into a fairly unique and visionary agreement on May 1, 1976. That agreement created the process to jointly create a comprehensive land use and review development projects in Manhattan and the area immediately outside of the city to ensure that development on the edge of Manhattan would be appropriate and could, one day, seamlessly be a part of the City. The agreement was most recently updated in 2001.

    This process, which has been in place for more than forty-five-year, has prevented development patterns that occur in other areas of the state from happening in our community. For instance, imagine a new residential neighborhood being created on the edge of Manhattan that could have substantially smaller rights-of-way widths, narrow or no utility easements, and inadequate public utilities for water, fire protection, and community sanitary sewer services. When the nearby city limits extend out to that neighborhood and it eventually makes sense to annex the area into Manhattan, upgrading that neighborhood to have adequate streets, sidewalks, fire hydrants, and sewer and water would be expensive and challenging.

    The result of the agreement is the creation of the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board. The MUAPB is a defined area per the joint agreement and the boundaries of the Manhattan Urban Area Comprehensive Plan. The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board is made up of seven members and comprised of both residents of Manhattan and rural areas of Riley County within the defined board boundary. Three Board members are appointed by the City Commission and three Board members are appointed by the Board of Riley County Commissioners. The seventh Board members rotate between the City and County for each three-year term. Additionally, the agreement established that the subdivision of land would follow the same regulations and processes in this area to ensure consistent and appropriate infrastructure, such as sewer and water, would be provided for development.

    The different elements that make up the development oversight in the MUAPB jurisdiction can be viewed as a set of nesting circles, where each map jurisdiction is smaller and fits within its larger counterpart.

    Makeup of the Manhattan Urban Area, as represented as nested circles

    The sum of all of the parts is the Manhattan Urban Area, and, as we have already discussed, is the jurisdiction of the MUAPB. The outermost layer is the Urban-Rural Fringe, which is areas in the Manhattan Urban Area that are not anticipated to be developed at an urban or suburban scale in the foreseeable future because of the limited utility infrastructure and development demand. This area generally will stay in its rural agriculture and residential character. The next layer is the Urban Service Area. This the area that has infrastructure readily available or could be extended to the area soon and that the market or development demands make the area a prime location for future growth. And the last, innermost area is the city limits of Manhattan.

    The MUAPB hears requests for all rezoning and subdivision of land in their jurisdiction, regardless of if the property is within the City limits or not. For applications within the City limits or is to be annexed into Manhattan, the City staff will manage the applications and handle the process with the MUAPB. For applications in the MUAPB jurisdiction that will not be annexed into Manhattan; Riley County will shepherd these applications to the MUAPB. Any land use application outside of the MUAPB jurisdiction will be handled by Riley County staff and be heard by a separate Riley County Planning Board. Following the Planning Board actions, the City Commission will hear items that are to be within the City, and Riley County will hear all other items.

    The Manhattan Development Code continues this mutual process that has been placed since 1976. Section 26-9C. Land Division outlines the applicable jurisdiction, as previously discussed. Section 26-5C-1, General Requirements for Streets and Division 26-5D, Standards for Public Improvements describes which entity’s utility design standards will need to be followed, depending on where the site is in (urban-rural fringe, urban service area, or city limits) within the MUAPB boundary.

    Although slightly more complicated than other processes to review and approve development applications in the areas outside of a growing city, the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board has served the City and Riley County well. To keep this mutually beneficial process going, the City and County staff are working to ensure the new development codes that both entities are separately working on will seamlessly meet the objectives of the original, unique, and visionary idea.


  • Don't forget about Subdivision Regulations!

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    A community’s subdivision regulations are the unsung requirements that help shape our neighborhoods and commercial areas. These regulations establish several of the basic services to our homes and businesses that we take for granted daily, such as reliable power, water, sewer, and storm sewers. The subdivision regulations also define how our neighborhoods are laid out, how streets safely handle traffic, and make sure that adequate bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is provided.

    Currently, the Subdivision Regulations are in a separate document. And as discussed in the last edition of the news feed, the City of Manhattan shares the regulations with Riley County for areas immediately around the city limits. The Manhattan Development Code will incorporate them into the one-stop development code by placing these standards into Article 26-5. Subdivision.

    Barry Beagle, Senior Current Planner, briefly explains the purpose of these regulations and the changes that are proposed in the Manhattan Development Code. Although we often forget about this set of regulations, they are the workhorse for establishing the layout of our community and the basic city functions. Please watch the short video that Barry created to learn more. Also, please offer any comments or questions you may have in the “Questions Tool” We would like to hear from you!


  • How to Use EncodePlus with the Manhattan Development Code

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    EncodePlus bring the Manhattan Development Code into the 21st Century

    The city wanted to modernize its zoning and subdivision regulations to use best practices to regulate new development and redevelopment of sites in Manhattan and make it easier to use the Manhattan Development Code. One way we hope makes the new development code easier to use is by having the regulations live online, which allows any user to quickly navigate through the various sections of the code, simply find development definitions, and have tools to determine what regulations will apply and to help calculate some requirements, such as minimum off-street parking to provide or a maximum size of sign allowed for a building or use.

    Kendig Keast Collaborative’s EncodePlus website is where the development code is located. To help you use this new website to find and apply these regulations, we have created this quick instructional video. Please note, some of the tools and functions are not quite ready yet, but most of the site for the MDC is up and going. Future instructional videos will be created on tools that are not fully functional yet.

    If you have any questions about EncodePlus or the MDC, please feel free to use the Q & A tool here on EngageMHK.com or contact the Community Development Department.


  • The Heart of the Development Code: Articles 26-1 thru 26-3

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    As promised, the Community Development Department is rolling out a series of informational videos to introduce topics in the Manhattan Development Code (MDC). Our staff has worked hard to create videos that are brief but hit the highlights of each article in the MDC. A huge shout out to Ben Chmiel, Long-Range Planner III with the department for his work in creating, edits, and producing the final video products.

    The first video installments below cover Article 26-1. Authority, Purpose, Applicability, Article 26-2. Zoning Districts and Land Uses, and 26-3. Overlay Districts. The actual draft regulations can be found on the Manhattan Development Code EncodePlus site.

    In addition to the information provided on www.EngageMHK.org, the Community Development Department will also be presenting each article to the Ordinance Advisory Committee (OAC), the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board, and the City Commission. FYI, the OAC is a committee of citizens formed with the project to give guidance to the drafting of the project. The Planning Board will have a work session on these articles on April 19th (see staff memo to the Planning Board). The City Commission will hold a similar work session on April 20th (see staff memo to the City Commission) (Pro tip – the two staff memos are largely the same). The OAC will hold a meeting on the drafts of Articles 26-1 through Articles 26-4 on May 5th. Article 26-4. Design Standards covered building and site design requirements for various commercial and residential districts. More information on that article will be coming soon!

    If you have any comments or questions about the MDC or these first three articles, please drop them in the Question tab on the Manhattan Development Code project page.

    Article 26-1. Authority, Purpose, Applicability

    Honestly, Article 26-1 isn’t that exciting, when it comes to development standards. But, it is an important section that lays out the overall MDC structure, purpose of the regulations, and where and when the regulations are generally applicable. Enjoy!


    Article 26-2. Zoning Districts and Land Uses

    Article 26-2 dives right into the residential, commercial, and industrial zoning districts, what is allowed in each district, and what are the site requirements (e.g., building setbacks, building heights, minimum lot areas, etc.). The MDC introduces some new residential development types with hopes to encourage different subdivision designs that allow for new housing types and/or preserves natural areas and open spaces. The MDC also proposes some new processes for the approval of new developments. This video and the details in this article basically lay the groundwork for all articles to come. In addition to the video, The Community Development Department has created this nifty map to allow you to compare what the zoning of a piece of land or neighborhood is to what it is proposed to be with the MDC.


    26-3. Overlay Districts

    Ben does a great job in this video briefly explaining what Overlay Districts are, why we have them, and what changes are proposed with the MDC. So, please give a view for more information.