Every jurisdiction’s LDRs are going to use words that are unique to the context of the LDRs or use terms differently than everyday use. To make the meaning clear to everyone, these words and terms need to be defined.
If they are only going to be used once or only in one section, the words or terms can be defined in the sentence, paragraph or section where they are used. But be careful if you use a term one way in one section and the same term differently in another section that you distinguish the two with phrases such as “as used in this section” or “for purposes of section X.” If, however, the word or term is used in several sections or throughout the LDRs, it should be defined in a separate glossary or definition section, clearly identified so people know where to look.
If the term is used in different forms in the LDRs (e.g. buffer, buffering, setback/buffer), but all the forms have the same meaning, reference the different forms in the definition. Distinguish between terms that can have one meaning in one form, but a different meaning in another (e.g. the noun “building” versus the verb “building”); the first should be defined, but the second may not need definition or can be included in another definition (e.g. putting the definition of the verb building under the definition of ”development). Once they are defined, the word or term needs to be used in a way consistent with that definition throughout the document.
The definition or glossary section should only include definitions – it should only explain what the word or term means. It should not include regulations, applying the word or term. If a term is used so infrequently in the document that the only place to put the regulation related to that term is with the definition, the regulation should be moved to an appropriate section and the term defined there (or the regulation should be made part of a related regulation and a different, already defined, term used).
Here are a couple of websites that may be helpful in writing definitions: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Help:Writing_definitions and http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/622/01/.
Sources of Definitions.
The best source for the definitions needed for LDRs is the comprehensive plan that the LDRs implements (presuming the comprehensive plan definitions are up to date). Another source is the Florida Statutes. See the article Definitions from the Florida Statutes Relevant to LDRs. An additional source is the existing LDRs, so that terms continue to be used in a way everyone is used to. But care should be taken to be sure such definitions are still being used in the same way and meet current laws.
Only after these sources have been reviewed carefully should outside sources be used. A helpful outside source may be industry definitions for the subject term, when the regulated industry has terms of such common usage that they have become an industry standard. This helps to eliminate confusion in the application of the LDR regulations by that industry. But care should be taken to be sure the industry definition fits the goals and approach of the LDRs. Another common outside source is other jurisdictions’ LDRs, planning guides, or glossaries. Although these seem like ready sources, already vetted by others, the definitions they provide may not be consistent with your LDRs approach, concepts, or usage. See the future article on Borrowing from other codes for issues associated with these sources.