Form-Based Zoning

Land Deveopment Training
December 28, 2012 — 1,503 views  

Form-based zoning is designed to curb the extent of urban sprawl. It is a way to regulate the development of land so that certain quality of life and other issues can be addressed before development of the area begins. These issues include the decline of neighborhoods with historic value and the disregard for creating walkable communities.

Single-use zoning has been used in favor of form-based zoning in the past, and has led to some of the issues mentioned. This type of zoning focuses on facets of development such as parking capacities and ratios and the number of residences per acre. The approach with single-use zoning has been micromanaged, instead of an approach that takes into account the integrated whole. Facets of urban planning including things like the design of streets, land use, and the space requirements for subdivisions are approached separately under single-use or conventional zoning, unlike form-based zoning, which considers all of these things in the same design process.

Any city that is considering implementing form-based code has many legal questions to answer before any change in planning begins. State-level legislation needs to be enacted in order to implement this kind of zoning. Urban planners must also bear federal and state regulations in mind in order to avoid problems at either level. It is important that developers and municipal officials understand that legally the form-based zoning cannot be applied arbitrarily; instead, there must be some uniformity of the application in order for it to be legal.

It is also important for people involved in the development of a municipal area to be sure the right regulatory body is appointing the reviewer of the zoning code. Administrators who are appointed to oversee the implementation, for instance, would have to be vetted by the correct agency. Proposals for use of form-based zoning must be specific, as changes in city ordinances cannot be vague.

When implementing this type of zoning, often two processes need to occur at the same time. Some of the implementation of form-based zoning requires the complete replacement of the existing code. In other instances, developers can implement the form-based code or keep the older code. This is often referred to as “optional implementation”, and while the choice is up to the developers, they must maintain uniformity throughout their development site. A “floating zone” occurs when the property owner is allowed to request which standards to abide by. The standards used to develop that property become the legal statute for that property once constructed.


Land Deveopment Training