Form-Based Code Institute FBC 101 Workshops

On Monday, June 12, 2017, and Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the Form Based Code Institute (FBCI) hosted two full-day workshops, “FBC101: The ABCs of Form-Based Codes”, open to the public and catered to the Las Vegas metro area stakeholders involved in the development of the Downtown Las Vegas Urban Form Code.  Over 60 attendees, including many from the city Planning Department, were present at the workshops, which were held at the city’s Development Services Center and the Las Vegas City Hall on the two different dates.

The concept of the Form-Based Code has become increasingly popular nation-wide as a useful alternative to the traditional municipal zoning code. Many of the early adopters of the Form-Based Code have been individual neighborhoods concerned with maintaining their unique built environment, although larger cities are increasingly utilizing this technique to modernize their downtowns and urban centers.  The city of Las Vegas 2045 Downtown Vision Plan distinctly identifies the significance of implementing a Form-Based Code for the entirety of downtown Las Vegas.  Not only would implementation of a Form-Based Code modernize the downtown core by adding notable lifestyle features such as increased walkability and transit-oriented development throughout downtown, but it would also be a step towards stimulating continued growth to keep up with regional competitors.

Lisa Wise from the consulting team going over the concept of Transect Zones

Lisa Wise and Roger E. Eastman of Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc., and developer Mike Hathorne facilitated both workshops. With a variety of backgrounds and experiences regarding the promise and challenges facing Form-Based Codes around the United States, the three instructors gave presentations on the creation, development, and implementation of Form-Based Codes.  The first session of the workshop introduced the concept of the Form-Based Code as a new paradigm in the realm of zoning.  Unlike traditional zoning codes which rely upon the segregation of land uses, the Form-Based Code promotes stylistic building designs and a cohesive community form. The second session delved into the preparation of a Form-Based Code once a community has determined a shared vision for its future and the need for codification of the new community form. Case studies were presented of communities that were adopting a Form-Based Code after decades of utilizing a traditional zoning code or which were seeking to guide future development along the lines of a single stylistic vision.

The third session focused on the adoption process for Form-Based Codes and general principles and strategies for reducing possible challenges and opposition. This was followed by a session on the common misconceptions regarding Form-Based Codes, which identified the flexibility of this approach and methods by which to address confusion or opposition by members of the community.  After a break for lunch, the fifth session presented how real-estate developers view and interact with communities with implemented Form-Based Codes.  The role of trust between private developers and public agencies to maintain the community vision was reiterated throughout the presentation as a key element to any Form-Based Code.

Once the instructors had provided a firm foundation of the concepts and implementation strategies for Form-Based Codes, the workshop attendees were provided with an interactive exercise on the process of formulating a Form-Based Code. The attendees were divided into groups, and each group was tasked with determining a community form plan for a downtown center in a sample town.  Using a mixture of images from Google Earth and aerial photography of the sample town, groups developed a streetscape for each of the identified intersections along with the built form of buildings along that intersection.  By the end of the session, each group presented their findings and was able to discuss any opportunities or challenges they had experienced in the process.

Mike Hathorne showing the details of one of his projects that utilized a Form-Based Code

One thought on “Form-Based Code Institute FBC 101 Workshops

  1. I am a property owner along Valley View and Charleston Blvd. The city codes for landscaping allow us to select from the SNV Drought tolerant plant list. However, after our business applied for a landscape waiver to go to all drought tolerant plants we were not approved due to the personal opinion from a city councilwoman. I have called on the Planning Dept for help develop a new code that allows NO IRRIGATION if the business owner uses local drought tolerant plants and maintains the landscaping. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the personal preferences of any city council person be allowed to dictact to a property owner what they can and can not use as drought tolerant plants. To deny a landscape waiver after demonstrating 3 years of maintenance of the landscape and plants without irrigation and allowing larger businesses across the street to be waivered and a small business to be subjected to denial is wrong. We have challenged the city council to develop new landscape requirements that give flexibility to the business owner and prevents subjective opinions from the city council to overrule facts and the following of the drought tolerant plant list. This is something that should come up with the code planners for our area. NEVER ALLOW one city council person who hates a certain native plants or the look of landscape to overrule a business owners’ preference for plants. The city council does not maintain or plant landscape it is up to the owner of the property to maintain landscaping and select the plants. To pay $1500 for a landscape waiver and to go through 9 months of meetings and follow all of the city’s landscape rules, (meet the similar requirements of big businesses) and then to be denied a landscape variance means the codes must be changed to meet the changing times and to stop the actions of one city council person. The expertise of a business owner and their preferences must be accounted for and the proof that a landscape plan using native plant species and maintained for three years should be more than adequate for approval of landscape and the need to change code to allow for NO IRRIGATION. This should be covered in the meeting.

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