Form-based Zoning

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Central Main Street Plan Form-Based Zoning

Adopted Form-Based Code


In conjunction with the adoption of the Central Main Plan, the City of Mesa contracted with Opticos Design to develop a form-based zoning code. Combined with the Central Main Plan, application of the form-based zoning code will provide property owners, developers, and the City an innovative tool to encourage and guide infill development and redevelopment of property along the existing and future light rail line.

Application of form-based zoning principles will result in a mixed-use, higher intensity, transit-oriented development pattern that will create a more livable community with a greater sense of place for visitors and resident, achieve greater energy efficiency, improve sustainability, and improve economic Development.

The Form-Based Code was adopted by City Council on June 14, 2012.

What is Form-Based Zoning?

Form-Based Codes Institute, February 2009

Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. These codes are adopted into city or county law as regulations, not mere guidelines. Form-based codes are an alternative to conventional zoning.

Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in Form-based codes, presented in both diagrams and words, are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) ofDevelopment rather than only distinctions in land-use types. This is in contrast to conventional zoning's focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control ofDevelopment intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., floor-area ratio, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic level of service) to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, Form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory.

Form-based codes are drafted to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism. Ultimately, a Form-based code is a tool; the quality ofDevelopment outcomes is dependent on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements.

Form-based codes commonly include the following elements:

  • Regulating Plan. A plan or map of the regulated area designating the locations where different building form standards apply, based on clear community intentions regarding the physical character of the area being code.
  • Public Space Standards. Specifications for the elements within the public realm (e.g., sidewalks, travel lanes, on-street parking, street trees, street furniture, etc.).
  • Building Form Standards. Regulations controlling the configuration, features, and functions of buildings that define and shape the public realm.
  • Administration. A clearly defined application and project review process.
  • Definitions. A glossary to ensure the precise use of technical terms.

Form-based codes also sometimes include:

  • Architectural Standards. Regulations controlling external architectural materials and quality.
  • Landscaping Standards. Regulations controlling landscape design and plant materials on private property as they impact public spaces (e.g. regulations about parking lot screening and shading, maintaining sight lines, insuring unobstructed pedestrian movements, etc.).
  • Signage Standards. Regulations controlling allowable signage sizes, materials, illumination, and placement.
  • Environmental Resource Standards. Regulations controlling issues such as storm water drainage and infiltration,Development on slopes, tree protection, solar access, etc.
  • Annotation. Text and illustrations explaining the intentions of specific code provisions.

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