Form-Based Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

City of Thomasville
Friday, July 20, 2018
Thomasville, GA
United States

Request for Qualifications (RFQ) To Prepare a Form Based Code that functions as a city-wide Unified Development Ordinance

FROM: City of Thomasville, GA

DATE: June 19, 2018

SUMMARY: The City of Thomasville, Georgia invites you to submit your Statement of Qualifications to provide professional services related to the preparation of a new Form Base Code that also functions as a city-wide Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

CITY BACKGROUND: The City of Thomasville Georgia, (pop. 18,413), is situated just 35 minutes north of Tallahassee Fl. in the scenic Red Hills. The Red Hills are home to spectacular natural attractions, including magnificent live oaks and the largest stand of long leaf pine forest in America. In an effort to preserve this unique ecosystem, over 650,000 acres of land surrounding the City has been permanently conserved. The protection of rural land on the urban edge has strengthened the City’s thriving downtown. In fact, several downtown businesses and brands have garnered national attention, from cheeses to jams; coffee to superhero capes, Thomasville has become a community of local start-ups and creative “makers,” a fact that has not gone unnoticed by numerous national websites, magazines, and newspapers.

SUGGESTED SCOPE OF SERVICES: This contract will result in a proposed city-wide Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that is form-based and designed to replace the existing land development ordinances within the City of Thomasville. While form will serve as the predominate organizing element, the new code will be “place-based,” meaning the type and intensity of standards will vary upon physical location and the desire to either preserve or transform the site.

Currently, the City’s development related ordinances present as a series of stand-alone chapters that were written over several decades and are found within the larger Municipal Ordinance. For example, Zoning, Subdivision, Trees and Landscaping, Streets and Sidewalks, Signage, Stormwater, and Historic Preservation are all located in different (unrelated) ordinances along with chapters such as Cemeteries, Animals, Taxation Revenue, etc.  

Thomasville has a history of progressive planning, with zoning regulations dating back to 1958 and historic preservation standards that pre-date the State’s enabling legislation. These actions laid a strong foundation that has allowed the City to prosper for many decades. However, Thomasville’s code is no longer a leader for best practices. As part of an audit of the City’s development related ordinances, an outside planning firm interviewed over 80 recent users. Overwhelmingly, the participants conveyed that the City's codes were disjointed, conflicting, and difficult to use. In addition the standards failed to promote the public’s vision for the community, especially as captured in recently adopted plans. 

The 2017 code audit identified over 100 concerns with the City's development ordinances, including both “urgent” and “fundamental” fixes. “Urgent fixes” are items that might leave the City vulnerable to a legal challenge. Fundamental Fixes include all other concerns. Staff was directed to begin the process of addressing the “urgent fixes” in the current ordinance. “Fundamental fixes will be addressed by the new UDO.

Audit and Review of City Development Codes (overarching recommendations adopted):

Site Analysis.  The Consultant will become familiar with the urbanism of Thomasville, including the character and intensity of our neighborhoods, streets, and lots. The best way to do this is to visit the community. However, a number of existing and proposed plans also address potential changes to both the physical patterns and corresponding policies within our community. By far, the most important of these is Thomasville Blueprint 2028, the City’s proposed Comprehensive Plan. Currently targeted for adoption in late July, Blueprint 2028 sets the stage for a UDO that is form based in structure and utilizes the neighborhood scaled rural to urban transect as its primary organizing feature. 

Blueprint 2028 Comprehensive Plan (June Draft, BOOK ONE: Building Place, BOOK TWO: Building Community, and BOOK THREE: Making it Happen – via Dropbox):

PRIMARY WORK PRODUCT: The selected Consultant will work with the City’s staff and stakeholders to establish a regulatory framework for the UDO. This will include, but is not limited to, the principle organizing feature (e.g. Rural to Urban Transect) and several illustrative chapters that address the interface between public and private space at a variety of scales, from the community scale (street network, blocks, thoroughfares, lot division, civic spaces) to the scale of the lot (building placement, building form, parking, fences and walls) to the scale of the building (building type, use, architecture, frontages, appurtenances); as well as supplemental items such as landscaping, lighting, signage, historic preservation, resource protection, etc.

Design Parameters for the New Code. The new code will regulate development to ensure high-quality public spaces defined by a variety of building types and uses including housing, retail, office, and civic space. The new code will incorporate a regulating plan (zoning map), building form standards, street standards (plan and section), use regulations, building or lot types (to be determined), and other elements needed to implement the principles of functional and vital urbanism and practical management of growth. Sections of the proposed ordinance might include:

  • Overview, with an explanation of the primary organizing principles and terminology, method used when converting from the current ordinances, how to use the code, and the overall purpose and intent – all depicted illustratively and with clear user-friendly language.
  • Regulating Plan or Zoning Map illustrating the location of streets, blocks, lots, public spaces, and other special features. 
  • Building Form Standards governing basic building form, placement, and fundamental urban elements to ensure that all buildings complement neighboring structures and the street.
  • Public Space/Street Standards defining civic space types, locations, character, and facilities; as well as thoroughfare types with design specifications, character, geometries, and facilities.
  • Use Standards with permitted, conditional, and special uses; as well as accessory and temporary uses.
  • Supplemental Standards possibly addressing landscaping, lighting, fencing, signage (see below), parking (off-street), historic preservation, natural resources, and stormwater.
  • Procedures addressing nonconformities, administrative bodies, enforcement, and definitions.   
  • Certain design related items will likely be addressed, but limited to specific locations, zones, or uses such as architectural standards.
  • The City has a draft sign ordinance with accompanying manual awaiting adoption. The sign types and design provisions were originally intended to be regulatory and plug into a Transect-based-Code. It may be appropriate to reserve space for the ordinance, but address the issue separate from the new UDO.

Whether building upon the City’s most “time honored” elements or enabling an area to transform with new investment and ideas, Thomasville’s Unified Development Ordinance must be user-friendly and predictable,simple, yet flexible.

SUBMITTAL INFORMATION: Your Statement of Qualifications with three (3) hard copies as well as a digital version should be forwarded to the following address Brian Herrmann, City Planner, 411 W. Jackson Street, PO BOX 1540, Thomasville, GA. 31799 to be received no later than 4 pm on Friday July 20, 2018.

All responses will be reviewed by members of the “UDO Selection Committee,” a committee comprised of City staff, Planning and Zoning Commissioners, City Council Members, and local stakeholders. The Committee will select the top three firms to be interviewed, and ultimately the firm best suited for the project.

A far more descriptive narrative regarding this RFQ submittal can be found at:

Published on:
June 21, 2018 - 12:00am
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