Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cincinnati may appropriate $50,000 to hire form-based code consultant

Cincinnati City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow them to allocate $50,000 in funding to explore the implementation of form-based codes, including the hiring of a consultant.

Form-based codes are a regulatory tool that neighborhoods or targeted areas can use to control each building's form, massing, and relationship to the street and to other buildings.

Conventional, or Euclidean, zoning focuses mainly on land use, meaning that accessibility, walkability and vibrant public spaces are often not the primary consideration.

The new consultant would be analyze current City regulations and policies and would be charged with assisting City staff to determine:

  • If form-based codes should be implemented through overlay districts or as an expansion of existing zoning districts
  • What type of public participation would be required
  • What private and public elements of the built environment should be regulated
  • What neighborhoods/areas should have a form-based code
  • How form-based codes would be implemented into the permitting process
  • What level of staff expertise is required to interpret and enforce form-based codes
The consultant would then work with City staff to develop a user-friendly implementation guidebook, and, depending on funding, could even lead design-based charrettes for individual neighborhoods.

"In the development of form-based codes, an emphasis is placed on creating consensus about the future character of a neighborhood or area," says city manager Milton Dohoney, in a communication to council. "This is a time-intensive, front-loaded process that can create certainty for both the developer and the neighborhood by establishing a common neighborhood design vision. The time and design expertise needed to establish a common plan for the neighborhood can allow development approval and permitting to occur more quickly once the code is adopted."

On November 26, council adopted a motion supporting the appropriation by an 8-0 vote.

Cincinnati has been exploring form-based codes since February's Neighborhood Summit, and have traveled to Nashville to see how their limited use of form-based codes has led to rapid redevelopment.

A two-day conference on form-based codes was held in October, and a website has been established by the City and ULI Cincinnati to share news and ideas.

Over the past few months, College Hill, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge and Westwood have expressed interest in implementing form-based codes.

Additionally, the neighborhoods of Avondale, Clifton, East Price Hill, Kennedy Heights, Walnut Hills, West End, Mt. Adams, Mt. Airy and Northside are interested in learning more.

The new form-based code project account would be funded from the I-75/Corridor Planning Design Consultant 08 and Cincinnati 2020 Urban Renewal Plan project accounts.

Previous reading on BC:
Report on form-based code overlays due in November (10/23/08)



Randy Simes said...

I think a piece-meal approach to implementing form-based codes is a bad idea. One of the main selling points is simplicity and design focus that aren't offered by typical zoning. Overlay districts (especially ones seen in places like OTR) have those design elements in them already and have worked tirelessly to get them in place. Throwing a form-based code overlay would not accomplish much more and would discard the hard work already done.

If you're going to do a code like this then I think it would be most beneficial to use the code across the board for the whole city. Duany's transects are set up to be used for an entire transition of urban form for a particular area. Use the code the way it's supposed to be used and you'll see the greatest impact.

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