Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Overhaul of Cincinnati development code ramps up today

A move to overhaul Cincinnati's land development code begins in earnest today with a presentation and a public event.

Launched in 2008, the changes are meant to replace the City's conventional – also known as "Euclidean" – zoning process with a form-based code, a streamlined development process that's meant to make permitting and approval processes easier for prospective developers. That's because, unlike Euclidean zoning codes, form-based codes address the relationships between building form and relationship to the street, rather than segregating parcels by uses.

This morning at 10 A.M. in Council Chambers, Room 300 at Cincinnati City Hall, City Council's Livable Communities Committee will hear from Daniel Parolek of consultant Opticos Design and Architecture, which has spent the past two years researching regulatory obstacles, best practices, and neighborhood characteristics; and Jeff Raser, a principal at glaserworks who helped Bellevue implement the region's first form-based code in March 2011.

"Cincinnati's great neighborhoods originally were developed so that residents could walk to restaurants, groceries, retail and meet their daily needs in their vibrant neighborhood business districts," Cincinnati Vice Mayor and committee chair Roxanne Qualls said in a media release. "Form-based codes will let our neighborhoods reinforce or create great places where people can live, work and play, by focusing on the physical character of development instead of only looking at specific uses."

Tonight's "pre-charrette", being held on the fourth floor of Two Centennial Plaza, 805 Central Avenue, from 6 P.M. to 9 P.M., will detail the past three-plus years of work and lay the groundwork for a City-wide charrette event to be held from April 28 through May 2. That visioning process will include community stakeholders such as residents, business owners, developers, and design professionals.

The initiative is being funded by a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, awarded in 2010.

A City-wide application

On February 24, the City's Department of City Planning and Buildings launched Plan Build Live Cincinnati, an interactive website designed to keep citizens informed of the process and to allow them to submit their ideas for what should be included in the new code.

"Plan Build Live is an important milestone for ensuring the City’s future growth," Department of City Planning and Buildings Director Charles C. Graves III said in a media release. "Plan Build Live will make development and redevelopment easier for neighborhoods and communities, while also improving the city’s environment, residents’ health and the community’s access to transportation choices."

The late March-early April charrette will create a broad template that can be plugged into by future participating neighborhoods. College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills and Westwood are on board to hold neighborhood-level charrettes later this year, focusing on local focal points.

Draft text amendments for the City's form-based code ideas will be presented to the City Planning Commission and City Council by the end of this year, and will be folded into Plan Cincinnati, the City's first comprehensive plan in 30 years.

Fourth trip to Nashville

Qualls is planning her fourth trip to Nashville March 29-30 to see first-hand the power of form-based codes in shaping the Music City's downtown and neighborhoods.

According to Qualls, Nashville Metro Planning Executive Director Rick Bernhardt has replaced its old zoning code with "a community character approach that is based on the 'look and feel of neighborhoods, centers, corridors and open spaces.'"

Between 2003 and 2008, that led to a 75-percent increase in taxable value in the districts in which form-based codes were implemented – compared to a 28 percent increase in the county overall – Qualls said. 

This trip will include an in-depth briefing by Metro Planning on its results, including the effects of a new downtown code adopted in February 2010. Tours of new infill at the 31st and Long neighborhood, East Nashville, and the 100 Oaks Mall revitalization will also be held.

Interested parties are asked to contact the Office of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for by e-mailing Jennifer O'Donnell at jennifer.o'donnell@cincinnati-oh.gov or by phone at (513) 352-2560.

Previous reading on BC:
Bellevue first local municipality to adopt form-based codes (3/21/11)
Preferred alternative for Cincinnati form-based codes discussed (5/3/10)
'Pin ups', presentation show how Bellevue can build on historic fabric (3/29/10)
Cincinnati form-based code initiative moves forward (2/5/09)
Cincinnati may appropriate $50,000 to hire form-based code consultant (12/3/08)