Form-Based Code

Form-based codes focus on the creation of quality environments through the definition of public space. This is accomplished by locating buildings closer to the street, allowing buildings to be closer together to contribute to the creation of a “street wall,” and paying particular attention to the design and location of both streets and open spaces. This approach is conducive to the creation of urban environments and mixed-use, transit-oriented development.

Existing Zones

Most of the existing zones in the county are primarily focused on the separation of uses and requirement for large setbacks and parking lots that contribute to a much more suburban character of development. Vertical mixed-use development is very difficult to accomplish, as it is prohibited by most zones. The mixed-use zones currently available to the county are complex, have been criticized as too flexible and unpredictable, and have proven ineffective at fostering the development envisioned by the General Plan for centers and corridors.


The other key difference concerns the process for establishment of the new code and development review under its regulations. A form-based code is directly linked to a Regulating Plan, or a key guide that establishes street and block patterns, locations for public spaces, building form, and which regulations apply to specific properties. Regulating Plans are the result of a highly collaborative public involvement process, and are subject to review, consideration, and approval by the Planning Board and District (County) Council.

Regulating Plan

The Regulating Plan, and with it the zoning and design regulations, establishes the critical details for the creation of communities, and cannot be developed without substantial public involvement. Once approved, the development application and review process becomes an administrative process to verify that developers are in conformance with the zoning and regulations put in place by the Regulating Plan and county policy makers. With these critical details established through this collaborative effort, the development application process should be much simpler, involve much greater certainty, and take much less time than the current process . These factors are beneficial to all parties, not just developers. By use of a Regulating Plan process, what you see will be what you get, which provides greater certainty for the community than existing zoning techniques and development review procedures. A more streamlined and easier to understand process will help draw high-quality development to the county, while fewer costs during the approval process will result in additional funds available for public amenities with each project.