Home 2.0 Blog Archive

Monday, March 9, 2015


Form-Based Code Considered for Pleasant Ridge Business District

Form-based code is an alternative approach to zoning that many City of Cincinnati policy-makers have been bullish on in recent years. Several neighborhoods have adopted it already and Pleasant Ridge is the latest to consider it. While somewhat familiar with the concept, I don't feel like I know it well enough to have an opinion with regards to whether I'm in favor of it or not. That said, I thought I would post some introductory material on Form-Based Code below to give myself and others the opportunity to become more educated on the topic. 

From Building Cincinnati Facebook Post:
CITY COUNCIL 3/4: Adopted a motion directing the City to work with Pleasant Ridge to identify if a Form-Based Code can be implemented in the neighborhood business district and to identify the potential costs and funding sources necessary to establish it. A report from the Department of City Planning and Buildings is due before Council by April 6.

What is Form-Based Code? (Cincinnati Form Based Code)
Form-based coding represents a paradigm shift in the way that the built environment is regulated.  is shift is necessary because the conventional, use-based approach to zoning has been shown to be ineffective for regulating diverse, urban, mixed-use environments. Cincinnati is using form-based coding to help achieve the overarching goal of Plan Cincinnati, which is "thriving re-urbanization."  The formal short definition of a form based code is as follows:
Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. These codes are adopted into city or county law as regulations, not mere guidelines. Form-based codes are an alternative to conventional zoning.~ Form-Based Codes Institute
Unlike conventional codes, form-based codes use the intended form and character of a place (or context) as the organizing principle or framework of the code, rather than use, and regulate a series of important elements not just to create a good individual building but to create a high-quality place.  The naming conventions in form-based codes reflect the intended physical form and hierarchy of different places. For example, instead of a zone being labeled “single-family residential,” it might be called “traditional neighborhood.” Instead of a zone being called “commercial” or “mixed use,” it might be called “neighborhood main street.”  The terms “neighborhood” and “main street” refer to the intended physical form or place, both of which may include a mix of uses and different building types that create vibrant walkable urbanism. It is also important to note that while form-based codes primarily regulate an intended physical form, they also regulate use secondarily. Form-based codes often allow a range of uses that are carefully chosen to maximize compatibility between uses and the intended physical form of the zone.  The use tables are simpli€fied and categorized by use type and are clearly defined to allow a greater degree of administrative decision-making related to particular uses.

The Rural-to-Urban Transect: The Framework for the Form-Based Code
The rural-to-urban transect is an organizing principle used in form-based coding that establishes a hierarchy of places/contexts from the most rural to the most urban. The designation of each zone along this hierarchy is determined first by the character and form, intensity of development, and type of place and secondly by the mix of uses within the area. This hierarchy of places becomes the framework/organizing principle for the entire form-based code, replacing use as the organizing principle as is used in conventional or Euclidean zoning. Transect zones are used to reinforce existing or to create new walkable mixed-use urban environments.
The Rural-to-Urban Transect is a means for considering and organizing the human habitat in a continuum of intensity that ranges from the most rural condition to the most urban. It provides a standardized method for di€fferentiating between the intentions for urban form in various areas using gradual transitions rather than harsh distinctions. The zones are primarily classified by the physical intensity of the built form, the relationship between nature and the built environment, and the complexity of uses within the zone.~ Form-Based Codes Institute

A natural transect diagram on top with the rural-to-urban transect below.  is urban-to-rural transect diagram illustrates a continuum of places from the most rural to the most urban from le! to right. Image courtesy of DPZ.