THE CITY'S proposed new zoning code took an important step toward becoming law yesterday, but still has some hurdles to clear.

Council moved toward voting on the new code this fall after holding its last public hearing on the changes yesterday.

That triggers a 30-day deadline for Council to send a report to the Zoning Code Commission. After that, the ZCC will have 30 more days to resolve questions and submit a final code.

If Council had scheduled more hearings, it probably wouldn't have had enough time to pass the reform this fall.

The current zoning code is more than 50 years old, hard to understand and a barrier to bringing new business into the city. The ZCC was created four years ago after taxpayers approved a measure to rewrite the code. The process has taken thousands of hours of work from community members and the commission, and $1.9 million in taxpayer funds.

During the two-hour hearing, the commission submitted its responses to some of Council's suggestions for the new code.

One of those suggestions came earlier this month from Councilman Bill Green, who said that the code should ban or require a "special exception" for certain types of developments, including sit-down restaurants, methadone clinics and bed-and-breakfasts, until the city is "remapped" - meaning when new decisions are made about which areas should be residential, commercial, mixed-use and so on.

Yesterday, the commission said that it could not regulate methadone clinics differently from medical offices due to a 2007 federal court decision. It also said that it would allow sit-down restaurants in neighborhood commercial corridors and commercial mixed-use districts.

"[Sit-down restaurants] are usually viewed as a very positive use on a neighborhood commercial corridor," explained Eva Gladstein, executive director of the commission.

The commission also said that it would accept several other proposals from Council, such as one that would refer developers to the district Council person if a community organization didn't exist in the area to respond to a project.

When Council decides whether and how to vote on the new code, it will have to weigh these negotiations with the commission, as well as resolve outstanding issues with community members.