Are Form-Based Design Standards Easier Than Form-Based Codes?

Communities with limited resources may find it difficult to create Form-Based Codes (FBC). In updating his book, Rural by Design, Randall Arendt looked at alternatives to FBC that are working for small cities and towns across the country.1

Although several Maine towns have adopted form based coding (FBCs), communities with limited resources and little or no professional staff can achieve very similar results through a simpler set of form-based design standards, (FBDS) as listed below. In Freeport, design regulations (in Chapters 21 and 22 of its zoning) apply in two central districts, one primarily commercial, the other primarily residential. When zoning or design review standards are being developed, neighborhood meetings are held to learn about neighborhood concerns. 

Key elements of Form-based Design Standards include:

  • Maximum Front Setback, with allowances for alcoves.
  • Minimum Building Height, with requirements for functional upper floors and height proportional to street width.
  • Primary door entrances along the street side opening onto sidewalks (or opening to a street corner)
  • Minimum glazing requirements along the street side for commercial buildings
  • Reduce on-lot parking requirements
  • Parking to the rear or side. Screen side parking from streets by walls, fences, or landscaping about 42 inches high.
  • Minimum street frontage built-up to minimize gaps between buildings
  • Maximum block length
  • Broader use-mix within buildings and blocks
  • Shade tree planting along streets and in parking lots
  • Greater mix of different residential building types.  Permit single-family, two-family, or three-family homes on any lot in most residential districts