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Setbacks

Article

The term "setback" refers to a distance, prescribed by zoning ordinances, that buildings must be literally ‘set-back' from the property line or public right-of-way. While conventional zoning ordinances may still include setback requirements, many communities are replacing them with "build-to-lines," particularly in commercial areas, to encourage spatial definition and the development a street wall.

Establish Build-To Lines. Great streets create a sense of space and enclosure that makes it attractive and convenient for pedestrians. Build-To lines help reduce distances pedestrians must travel from the public sidewalk to building entrances and a sense of enclosure and by setbacks suggest a minimum distance buildings must be "set back" from the public right-of-way.

Zoning regulations often require commercial shopping centers to be set back 100-200 feet from the public right-of-way, thus creating a "strip" shopping center fronted by parking. Because sidewalks are located next the roadway, in the public right-of-way, the pedestrian zone is then sandwiched between a parking lot and traffic. Reducing setback requirements and locating parking on the street, behind, or at a minimum, beside buildings would help create a more pedestrian-friendly environment and encourage shoppers to walk to and between shops.