Form-based Zoning Codes

Form-based zoning codes are land development regulations that consider the relationship between public space and building forms in relationship to each other within a neighborhood. Rather than the traditional separation of uses, such as floor area ratio (FAR), setbacks, dwellings per acre, and use groups, form-based codes offer a more holistic approach to city planning that allow for a more integrated built environment. (, 2022).

Form-based codes can be illustrated graphically through diagrams, avoiding a lot of complicated zoning legalese, which makes it more approachable and easier to understand for the general public.

There are five main elements of form-based zoning codes:

1. A regulating plan mapping the area in question and designating where different building form standards apply.

2. Public Standards that specify elements in the public realm like sidewalks, travel lanes, street trees and parking.

3. Building standards that control the features and layout of buildings defining the shape of the public realm.

4. An administrative system that includes an application and project review process

5. Definitions included in a glossary to ensure technical terms are used precisely.

Form-based zoning codes can have significant advantages. A 2021 study by Smart Growth America looked at four areas in Virginia, Cincinnati, Fort Worth, and Palm Beach that have implemented form-based codes. They found that residents expressed an improved quality of life and easier access to services and amenities. In addition, average rents in these areas grew at a slower rate, and they generated $65 million more in tax revenue than similar areas with traditional zoning codes. (, 2022)

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