Planned Unit Developments (PUDs)

Issues Addressed:
Housing Costs Infrastructure Sustainable Housing

What is it?

Planned unit development (PUD) is a method of land use regulation where the allowed mix of land uses, building types, densities, site design, and infrastructure are specified in detail for a single parcel or small collection of parcels. While PUDs are authorized under State law, the State provides no guidance on their use, and therefore they can take many forms.

PUDs are helpfully contrasted with conventional zoning: 

  • Conventional zoning sets broad parameters for many public and private property owners and those parameters can be interpreted to result in a variety of building outcomes, depending on site conditions and the owners’ wishes. 
  • PUDs set specific rules for (typically) one property owner that are laid out in a master plan. Those rules will result in a single outcome known by the owner and the community. While these rules are specific, the PUD allows for more flexibility in the final outcome of development than would be allowed under conventional zoning and subdivision rules.

PUDs typically result in a broader mix of uses, better configurations of public space and conserved open space, more targeted parking, and less unnecessary infrastructure.

Communities allow PUDs within their zoning code, and they can be limited to particular zoning districts. Within the PUD section of the zoning bylaw, the community can specify a process and criteria for permitting a PUD, allowed uses, allowed densities, design or performance standards, and PUD master plan requirements.

How can it help?

PUDs can…

  • Provide a mix of uses and multifamily housing that expand the tax base without the proportionate costs found under conventional zoning for infrastructure maintenance.
  • Decrease development costs for new housing, potentially passing savings on to homebuyers and renters.
  • Create a wider range of housing options than that found under conventional zoning.
  • Efficiently use land available for development.
  • Better integrate large developments with existing communities.
  • Connect existing neighborhoods and new housing with commercial development to create more amenity-rich communities.
  • Spur investment in public infrastructure, while creating less demand burden on that infrastructure.
  • Address the quality-of-life issues and limit open space encroachment associated with conventional development.

Getting Started

  1. Recognize and promote PUDs’ impact on common master plan goals, such as open space preservation, natural resource management, increased housing options, and more connected communities.
  2. If undertaking a master plan, include PUDs as a recommendation.
  3. Identify large sites or collections of sites that are under concentrated site control and which may be likely to redevelop. These sites are often older, vacant, and/or deteriorating institutions, campuses, industrial areas, business parks, or logistics sites.
  4. Approach owners of those sites to gauge their interest in redevelopment or selling their site and to discuss redevelopment options.
  5. Hold a public engagement process to determine the community’s vision for these areas, including what types of uses, site configurations, and other goals. Through this process, educate the community on the PUD option.
  6. Draft an ordinance that allows PUDs in your community through the zoning bylaw, based on your engagement process and conversations with property owners and stakeholders. The legislation should specify where PUDs would be allowed, the process for permitting them, and any other restrictions for proposals (design, allowed uses, density, etc.) 
  7. Adopt the ordinance through your community’s governing body.
  8. Promote the PUD option to local property owners and developers, and promote its community benefits to the general public.
  9. When large property owners approach the municipality with development ideas or interest, pose the PUD as an option and encourage a master planning process to test PUD strategies and find the best outcomes.


  • PUDs are often used where a single entity has site control, though multiple property owners can be party to a PUD. In any case, the site typically has considerable flexibility (such as a large amount of buildable area, especially in the interior of the site).
  • Before allowing PUDs, communities should conduct district-level planning to establish a clear community vision for areas where PUDs might be relevant.
  • Because they rely on intensive up-front planning, iterative design, and highly discretionary permitting, PUDs are among the most expensive land use controls for property owners, who pay holding costs during the design phases and other soft costs for planning. Over-reliance on PUDs could therefore impact the affordability of units produced.
  • The availability of infrastructure will determine the limitations of density and uses on the site for the PUD.
  • New infrastructure improvements can take years to plan, design, and build. Get started early!
  • Permit the local land use board as much flexibility as possible in the PUD ordinance.  Markets can change considerably in just a few years. The intent of the PUD option, however, should be very clear so that flexibility is not later abused.
  • Areas of open space should be usable with amenities for both visitors and residents.