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10 Misconceptions about Form-Based Codes

Several common assumptions about new urban codes fail to stand up to scrutiny.
September 24, 2014, 6am PDT | newurban
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Tony Perez writes in Better Cities & Towns: 

Since 1981, approximately 400 form-based codes (FBCs) have been prepared for communities across the US, and as of 2012, 252 of them have been adopted. Eighty-two percent of the adoptions have taken place in the past 10 years.  But as exciting as that may be, what’s more exciting is that these numbers are miniscule when you think about how many communities exist in the U.S. If this reform of conventional zoning is increasingly gaining acceptance and being applied to larger areas, why are there still so many misconceptions?"

Despite a wide variety of improvements in how form-based codes are strategized, prepared, and used, many of the planners, planning commissioners, elected officials, members of the public, and code practitioners I meet continue to harbor misconceptions or misunderstandings about these codes. Here are the ones I encounter most:

FBC dictates architecture. Some of these codes do prescribe details about architecture, but most do not. Perhaps because many of the early codes were for greenfield projects where strong architectural direction was needed or desired, the perception is that a FBC always regulates architecture. Yet the majority of codes I’ve prepared and reviewed (30 authored or co-authored, 10 peer-reviewed, 9 U.S. states, 2 foreign countries) do not regulate architecture. I’ve prepared codes where regulation of architecture (style) was important for a historic area, but those requirements did not apply anywhere else. The “form” in form-based codes may mean architecture, but not necessarily. Form can refer to physical character at many different scales—the scale of a region, community, neighborhood, corridor, block, or building.

The rest of the list is available by clicking on the link below.

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Published on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 in Better Cities & Towns
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