Form Based Codes Created to Replace Current Zoning and Provide More Flexibility and Predictability
By: Brandy O’Quinn
Most cities across the nation regulate land use through conventional or Euclidean zoning, in which the primary purpose is to segregate land uses thought to be incompatible, as well as to accommodate the movement and storage of cars. However, these codes date back to the day of the industrial city and are being rethought in the context of today’s neighborhoods.
It is the mixed uses that make neighborhoods human-scaled and pedestrian-friendly. More communities are turning to Form Based Codes, which emphasize form over land-use and allow more flexibility for the property owner.
Camp Bowie District (CBD) hired Gateway Planning (a nationally-acclaimed group) to create these codes for Camp Bowie, as well as Brandy O’Quinn (former President of CBD who has her own consulting firm, Urban Strategies of Texas) to navigate and oversee the project. Together, they held many meetings and design workshops with stakeholders and the public to gather information and seek support from the commercial property owners along the Boulevard.
After two years, the Fort Worth City Council approved the codes for Camp Bowie. These codes were developed and designed by property owners from Camp Bowie and its neighboring areas along I-30 to S.H. 820, based on their vision for their properties. Rather than having each individual property zoned differently and installing buffers based on the possible intended uses, there is now a unified vision. In fact, due to the uniqueness of the different portions of Camp Bowie, eight individual character zones were created to maintain the distinctive feel of each neighborhood.
The purpose of the codes are to support economic development and reinvestment along the commercial corridor. East of Alta Mere, the codes implement specific development stages that include pedestrian-oriented mixed uses with convenient access between area neighborhoods, shopping, employment, housing and retail services. West of Alta Mere, the codes implement a vision for employment-oriented development, along with a variety of light-industrial and art-oriented uses.
Form Based Codes are not new to Fort Worth; the Medical District, the Near Southside, as well as the planned Trinity River Vision Project have all integrated these codes. The Bricks zone of Camp Bowie (University Drive to I-30) was designed and laid out as part of a master plan, so it was developed and still has the attributes of a form-based environment — which is why it is retaining its value. However in the Ridglea zone (I-30 to Alta Mere), there is an opportunity to attract some appropriate reinvestment with the help from TxDOT, to potentially help with street design that will support the redevelopment vision.
The intent is to revitalize Camp Bowie Boulevard to be an attractive and vibrant commercial corridor in the community. Separately, there is not enough public or private money to create redevelopment momentum. This makes it possible for the public sector to grow its tax base sustainably, and for the private sector to invest with less risk. Since Form Based Codes are more predictable, banks are more comfortable lending money.