Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cincinnati form-based code initiative moves forward

Cincinnati City Council has approved $50,000 in funding for the development of neighborhood-based form-based codes.

The funding will allow the City to hire a consultant team to review City regulations, study best practices, and develop options for implementation that can be condensed into a strategic guidebook that can be used as a blueprint for planning efforts in several Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Form-based codes are different from conventional zoning methods because they emphasize a building's form, massing,and relationship to the street and other buildings, instead of focusing on land uses.

They also offer certainty to developers through a set of clear visual standards that streamline the approval process, decreasing development time and increasing the developer's design flexibility.

As a result, the development that is produced is walkable, compact, and creates a sense of place.

"These standards give neighborhoods a way to ensure that new development has a look and feel that's consistent with traditional neighborhood patterns – instead of the sprawl that conventional zoning has produced," says Councilmember Roxanne Qualls, recently appointed chair of council's Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee. "This approach promotes walkable communities that support a range of transportation options."

Since the 2008 Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit, Qualls has led a working group of neighborhood leaders, City staff, developers, and other stakeholders that led to a two-day conference at the Duke Energy Center last October.

They also saw the successful implementation of form-based codes in Nashville, where taxable value in those districts grew 75 percent from 2003-2008, compared to overall growth of 28 percent throughout Davidson County, according to Nashville Metro Planning Department executive director Rick Bernhardt.

Councilmember Laketa Cole, former chair of the Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee and new appointee to the Finance Committee chair, supports the initiative because it involves and intensive, community-driven process.

"Form-based codes are developed through an intensive public participation and visual planning process that includes residents, business owners, community institutions, developers, property owners, and real estate professionals," says Cole. "The community decides what can happen, instead of being put on the defensive and fighting projects they don't want."

College Hill, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge and Westwood have been working closely with the monthly working group, and expect to begin planning charrettes this summer.

Representatives of Avondale, Clifton, East Price Hill, Kennedy Heights, Mount Adams, Northside, and Walnut Hills have also participated in the working group, and are exploring the idea for their neighborhoods.

A website has been established by the City and ULI Cincinnati to share news and ideas.

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati may appropriate $50,000 to hire form-based code consultant (12/3/08)
Report on form-based code overlays due in November (10/23/08)