Much of downtown Wheaton was within the Wheaton Retail Preservation Overlay Zone. The zone was enacted in 1990 in response to recommendations contained in the 1990 Wheaton CBD Sector Plan. The Overlay Zone served to limit the amount of new development that could occur in the downtown area. This limitation was intended to help preserve the small business character of the downtown area.
It is now understood that strict adherence to the requirements of the Wheaton Retail Preservation Overlay Zone discouraged new growth and development, including additions and expansions to existing businesses. The Wheaton Redevelopment Program Office recommended several significant changes to the Overlay Zone, and a text amendment to improve opportunities for redeveloping the area was approved after much debate in the summer of 2006.