Zoning Practice — May 2013 / June 2013

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Daniel Parolek, author of the two-part article, "Avoiding Common Form-Based Code Mistakes," in the May 2013 and June 2013 issues of Zoning Practice.

Question from Paula Dronen:

On page six, paragraph one of your article you state, "In states with strong private property rights concerns, a mandatory FBC effort may be politically infeasible."Can you please explain why this would be so?

Answer from author Daniel Parolek:

This statement stemmed from our recent FBC experience in Flagstaff and Mesa, Arizona. Arizona passed proposition 207, which is called the "Private Property Rights Protection Act." It requires the government to reimburse land owners when regulations result in a decrease in the property's value. Unfortunately this has not been tested, so even a perceived reduction in property value is currently grounds for reimbursement.

While we could clearly prove that the FBC was not going to reduce development potential, in most instances it increased it, the cities were reluctant to require the FBC because of the perception from some property owners that it would reduce values, thus opening the city up to a lawsuit. Therefore the city attorney in both cities recommended that the planning staff make their FBCs optional. The property owners then decide if they want to opt in or not. Arizona is the only state where we have had to do an optional FBC, so maybe this statement in my article was a little strong.

Question from Molly Just:

I will be writing a hybrid code for a small neighborhood and inserting the code into our larger zoning ordinance. I mention this to let you know that we are not rewriting the entire ordinance, just one small part. I will be doing the work and have the benefit of numerous training sessions, manuals, and on-line references.

Can you recommend a website or two which are good for the legal copy of graphics to illustrate concepts?  I have some and would love to be armed with as many options as possible.

Answer from author Daniel Parolek:

I am not quite sure what you are asking for when you say a "web site or two which are good for the legal copy of graphics to illustrate concepts?" Are you simply asking for examples to understand what types of graphics to include in a code or for graphics that you can actually use in your code?

If you are looking for examples to understand what types of graphics to include in a code, the Form-Based Codes Institute has a wealth of pdf examples of FBCs you can look at on its website at http://formbasedcodes.org/samplecodes. If, however, you are looking for graphics you can actually use in your code, I would recommend hiring someone to create the graphics for you. Most codes are public, but images still typically have a copyright by the person or firm that created them.

A few other questions/tips for you:

  1. Are you doing a visioning plan prior to implementing the code? This is an extremely important first step. I explain the visioning process in much more detail in Part 2 of "Avoiding Common Form-Based Code Mistakes," which will appear in the next issue of Zoning Practice. Otherwise, you can look in my book, Form-Based Codes, for a detailed explanation of the process.
  2. What are you are doing with your code that you think makes it a hybrid versus a form-based code? Where does it fit in the table of different coding approaches that appeared in the article?
  3. A few tips:
    1. Be sure to revise the land use tables (more information also coming in Part 2).
    2. Test the code on typical lot sizes in the neighborhood it is being applied to while drafting. I often recommend hiring a local architect and task them with designing the worst possible project under the code for a few typical lots and then the ideal build out of that same lot. Then you can use this to inform the development standards.
    3. Be sure to reduce parking requirements

I wish you the best of luck with your code.