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Form-based code review hits snag

Concern from both residents and city officials has delayed the potential adoption of new zoning regulations.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. April 19, 2018
The city hopes to have an updated draft code ready for review later this summer.
The city hopes to have an updated draft code ready for review later this summer.
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The city has spent more than four years developing a form-based zoning code, planning to overhaul regulations governing new development.

Before officials can review and adopt the code, though, they need to understand the changes proposed within the document.

Right now, the City Commission doesn’t feel that sort of easily digestible information is available. The commission has asked city staff to work with the Urban Design Studio, which wrote the code, to produce material that explains how the proposal would affect neighborhoods throughout the city — in plain English, rather than planning jargon.

“That’s the level of simplification we desperately need,” Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie said.

That’s one of the issues the city has encountered as it began its review of the form-based code. Officials said some staff input has not yet been incorporated into the code. Commissioners have complained about a lack of clarity regarding which specific draft of the code is being used.

As a result, the city has postponed its schedule for adopting the form-based code. Staff now intends to work with the Urban Design Studio to finish a draft of the code by July 2.

The delay has likely pushed the potential adoption of the code into spring 2019 at the earliest, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said. Brown said the code confusion came about because staff pushed to produce a final document in March to begin the public review process.

“This document is a little more complex than everyone may envision it to be,” Brown said. “It’s like you’re trying to move into the house while the house is already under construction.”

Brown said staff will likely discuss a new schedule for public workshops regarding the form-based code in August or September, with those workshops possibly beginning in October. Despite the setback, Brown said staff remains confident in the underlying principles behind the form-based code, which prioritizes predictability in development and the creation of walkable communities.

Citing the complexity of adopting a zoning code from scratch, Brown said staff intends to allow for some room to adjust the forthcoming schedule, hoping to avoid generating more errors in pursuit of meeting hard deadlines.

“We want to be flexible, so nobody can say, ‘I didn’t have enough time to review the code,’” Brown said.


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