The Rules That Shape Urban Form (PAS 570)

By Donald Elliott, FAICP, Matthew Goebel, AICP, Chad Meadows, AICP

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From the Euclidean box to the SmartCode, planners have a wide range of tools for shaping the form of cities and how they function.

This practical report looks at six ways cities have adopted "form-based" zoning tools and the results that followed. Case studies describe the pros, cons, and consequences of form-based zoning regulations in Austin, Texas; Mooresville, North Carolina; D...

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Date Published
Oct. 1, 2012
APA Planning Advisory Service

About the Authors

Donald Elliott
Donald L. Elliott is a Director with Clarion Associates, LLC, a land use consulting firm with offices in Denver, Chapel Hill, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. Don’s practice focuses on land planning and zoning, growth management, and international land and urban development issues. He has also advised numerous local governments in Russia on land use issues, served as the Democracy and Governance Advisor to the United States Agency for International Development in Uganda for two years, and performed independent research on Indian urbanization and slum upgrading in Delhi for two years. He has managed planning and zoning projects that have been state level award recipients from the American Planning Association in Colorado, Arizona, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Elliott is a member of the Denver Planning Board and teaches a graduate level course in Land Development Regulation at the University of Colorado at Denver. He is the author of A Better Way to Zone and a Co-author of The Rules that Shape Urban Form. He has a B.S. in Urban Studies and Policy Analysis from Yale University, a Masters Degree in City and Regional Planning from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.

Matthew Goebel
Matt Goebel is a planner and attorney in the Denver office of Clarion Associates and a Director of the firm. He works principally in the areas of planning, zoning, and historic preservation. His numerous projects have included development codes for dozens of large and small jurisdictions around the country. Mr. Goebel is co-author of Rules that Shape Urban Form and Aesthetics, Community Character, and the Law, published by the American Planning Association.

Chad Meadows
Chad Meadows, AICP is founder and principal of CodeWright Planners in Durham, NC, and is Chair of the APA-NC Legislative Committee.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
Planned Unit Developments and Performance Zoning
Form-Based Zoning
Goals and Organization of This Report

Chapter 2: The Wide Range of Form Controls
Form Standards Inserted into Euclidean Districts: Nonresidential Design and Mixed Use Standards in Austin, Texas
Linking Building Types to Permitted Uses: The Use/Form Table in Mooresville, North Carolina
Mandatory Form-Based Zones without Regulating Plans: Main Street Zones in Denver
Optional Districts with Incentives: The Columbia Pike Form District, Arlington County, Virginia
Mandatory Form-Based Districts for Specific Areas: The Hybrid Code in Livermore, California
Mandatory Citywide Form-Based Codes: The Miami 21 Zoning Ordinance

Chapter 3: Form-Based Controls in the Broader Planning Context
Form Controls, Sustainability, and Climate Change
Form Controls and Demographic Changes
Form Controls and Housing Affordability
Form Controls and Historic Preservation

Chapter 4: Conclusion
Different Approaches Are the Norm
Form Controls Are Generally Working
Testing and Tweaking Are Often Required
Limited Effectiveness in Tackling Other Planning Challenges
A User's Guide to Selecting Form-Based Tools
The Bottom Line