What Is a Planned Unit Development?

In Door County, the phrase Planned Unit Development, or PUD, is a common term at municipal meetings, particularly in communities such as Sturgeon Bay and Sister Bay that are facing development pressure. For board and plan commission members, the phrase is well understood, but to the average citizen, it’s just another piece of board jargon that leaves eyes glazed over. 

So what is a Planned Unit Development? Sturgeon Bay Community Development Manager Marty Olejniczak laid it out for us. 

“The way I like to describe it is [that] it’s a special zoning district unique to a specific property, where the project plan is specific to what the developer proposes,” he said.

That makes it more difficult to change the project after the PUD is approved. Once a PUD is approved by a municipality with zoning authority, any future changes to that plan have to go back to the plan commission for approval, even for small changes. 

“The beauty of it for municipalities is [that] it gives you a lot of scrutiny on a project for everything like building design, landscaping [and] parking, but also some flexibility for the developer in areas that they might need to encroach on setbacks or exceed the normal density allowed for an area.”

PUDs are often used to meet urban-redevelopment goals and have been used extensively in the Village of Sister Bay to both encourage and control development in its downtown corridor. When used well, a PUD leads to more efficient site design, preservation of desired amenities and open space, and it lower costs of construction for the developer and infrastructure for the municipality. It also requires a public hearing, giving neighbors and residents a chance to weigh in on the project before it’s approved.