What’s New in Form-based Zoning Codes

APA Colorado Chapter


Friday, October 6, 2017
1:25 p.m. - 2:25 p.m. MDT

CM | 1
L | 1

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Form-based Zoning Codes have been with us for almost 20 years now, and the art of form-based coding has been evolving all along. What began as a fairly pure theory of alternative zoning has rubbed up against reality and has often become blended with use-based zoning in new and innovative ways. This session will examine the lessons learned in two decades of designing, updating, and applying zoning ordinances throughout the U.S.

Learning Objectives

1. Learn how the theory and practice of form-based zoning has changed over time

2. Learn how form-and use controls are being blended in newer zoning ordinances throughout the U.S.

3. Learn how form-based coding needs to differ for greenfield sites and redevelopment parcels.

4. Learn how to approach form-based zoning in ways that don’t repeat those practices that have not stood the test of time.


  1. Introduction of Speakers and Topic
  2. The Theory of Form-Based Zoning
    1. Form-based Code Institute (FBCI)
    2. The Smart Code
  3. The Practice of Form-Based Zoning
    1. Form-based controls have infiltrated traditional zoning
    2. Pure form-based control codes are rare and becoming rarer
    3. Hybrids are the Norm
  4. Examples of Current Form-based Zoning Experience
    1. Denver’s Citywide form-based code
    2. Albany New York’s hybrid code
    3. Boulder’s Pilot Study
    4. Others
  5. Lessons Learned
    1. It’s about being practical
    2. It’s about not over-detailing the controls
    3. It’s about responding to the greenfield vs. redevelopment context
    4. Top 10 “What Not to Dos”
  6. Conclusion – Questions and Answers

CM Law: This session focuses on form-based zoning regulations (laws – not policies) that have been adopted and implemented throughout the U.S. Course content will focus on changes in how those types of regulations are being drafted, why those changes have been made, and legal/administrative issues involved in implementing and enforcing different types of regulations. The session will also cover potential legal challenges to badly-drafted form-based regulations.


CM Criteria

1.    This session will address a major planning issue – how best to use zoning tools to create the places we want – in a practical way that educates professional planners about what types of form-based tools work well (or less well).

  1. 2.    Examples will draw on the personal experience of speakers in crafting and revising zoning codes throughout the U.S. Some of the examples will use projects where speakers have been involved, but the presentation will not be promotional – instead it will focus on what the speaker would do differently or what they learned from the experience.

    3.    All of the speakers are experts in zoning code drafting and revision, and the material will be presented in enough detail to illustrate trends, changes, and hybrid approaches that the attendees can apply to their home communities.

    4.    No proprietary materials will be distributed or used in the presentations.

    5.    The presentation format will offer significant opportunities for questions from attendees, and for speakers to respond to those questions during the course of the presentation.

    Attendance will be taken, an evaluation of the session will be administered, and the organizer is a responsible point of contact for administration of the session with significant experience in organizing and administering CM sessions in the past.


Donald Elliott, FAICP

Confirmed Speaker

Donald L. Elliott is a Director with Clarion Associates, LLC, a national land use consulting firm. Don’s practice focuses on land planning and zoning and international land and urban development issues. He is the author of A Better Way to Zone (Island Press 2008), co-author of The Rules that ... Read More

Leslie Oberholtzer, AICP

Confirmed Speaker

Leslie is a principal at CodaMetrics, a collaborative planning studio in Evanston, Illinois. With over 25 years of experience in urban design and smart growth planning, she works to promote sustainable development through the availability of alternative transportation and housing choices, the development of valuable places, and the preservation of ... Read More

Sarah Showalter, AICP

Confirmed Speaker

Sarah Showalter, AICP, is a city planner with a unique background in planning, housing, and urban design. She draws on over 10 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, where she has led and coordinated several project types including transit-oriented development, neighborhood plans, and affordable housing. As ... Read More

Contact Info

Shelia Booth, sbooth@apacolorado.org