New code prohibits bad development

Any zoning code (form-based or conventional) has restrictions of Use that must be fair and legal. For example, it is not legal to allow some retail uses while not allowing others. If a community wants to allow high-end retailers in its business district, its code must also allow second-tier retailers. What a form-based code does, that conventional codes usually do not do, is set restrictions based on form, building type and frontage type (such as building placement, front door placement, storefront requirements, etc.). It was these requirements – embedded in Cincinnati’s form-based code – that kept a poorly designed, second-tier, discount store from moving into one of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods recently.

Bad development that has occurred in some of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods in the past is now prohibited under the new form-based code. We have too many neighborhood business districts where the “front” of a building was built as a windowless concrete block wall or where a building was set back from the street by a quarter acre of asphalt parking. These developments have a detrimental impact on the welfare of the neighborhood – not because of the uses within them but because of the form the buildings took.

Jeff Raser, principal, Glaserworks Architecture & Urban Design
on cincinnati.com
Read the full article at http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/04/04/new-code-prohibits-bad-development/7331569/

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Council 7-2 Vote for Westwood NBD Form-Based Code

At the Cincinnati City Council meeting today, council members votes 7-2 to favor of the Westwood application of the Cincinnati form-based code. Voting for the recommendation: Council members Seelbach, Simpson, Sittenfeld, Winburn, Young, Murray, and Mann. And voting against: Council members Smitherman and Flynn. The form-based code application in Westwood’s historic neighborhood business district (NBD) will go into effect in thirty days.

Seven Westwood residents spoke in support of the form-based code, citing thorough research, community engagement, protections provided to single family housing, alignment with the strategic plan, and more. Joining in the public comment period was Caleb Faux, of the Planning Commission. He commented that dissent in Westwood is essentially a misunderstanding; the form-based code remedies the concerns about current zoning voiced by some of these concerned citizens.

Although two council members expressed negative impressions of aspects of the form-based code itself, council members were unified in their remarks on overwhelming community support, transformational change in Westwood, and a commitment to partner with the community to bring development and investment to Westwood’s historic business district. Mr. Seelbach commented on room for disagreement in public discourse, but he condemned divisiveness and unproductive behaviors, as did several other council members. Ms. Murray, Mr. Sittenfeld, and Mr. Winburn all remarked on their respect for the community’s exhaustive research and engagement, the value of the Coalition, and council members’deference to the neighborhood. Mr. Mann noted that the form-based code includes use restrictions, remarking that it’s inaccurate to say that the code does not regulate for use. Ms. Murray spoke of her community council experience, commenting that the cooperative nature of the Coalition is noteworthy and should be ongoing. Mr. Young pointed out that, while the form-based code is new to Cincinnati, it works well in other cities.

In discussion before the vote, Mayor Cranley voiced his strong support for the Westwood Coalition and the public process in Westwood around the revitalization efforts. He commented positively on the proposed Westwood Square project and said that he intends to help to make it happen, including a proposed ordinance for financial support for Madcap Puppets as an anchor organization on the Westwood Square. Mayor Cranley noted that it takes money to revitalize, including both private and public funding. He identified perceived shortcomings of use restrictions in the code and concerns about acceptance of the code by the local development community, but the bulk of the Mayor’s comments celebrated the Coalition-led process and the collaboration and vision demonstrated in Westwood. Mr. Cranley urged continued work by the Westwood Coalition and applauded the commitment of WestCURC on the business district. Mr. Winburn pledged his support as chair of the Budget Committee to stand with the community and support the Mayor in identifying economic development support for Westwood’s historic NBD.

Mr. Cranley announced his intention to hold a press conference in Westwood next week to underscore his support for the revitalization of the historic NBD, Mapcap Puppets, and development of a Westwood Square.

Up next: the Westwood Square feasibility study and consideration of specifics of economic development.

Total Land Area for Form-Based Code in Westwood

Did you know that the proposed application of Cincinnati’s Form-Based Code in Westwood is just 105 acres, or only 2.7% of the total land area in Westwood?  Because the Westwood Coalition recommended an incremental approach to focus the application intentionally on Westwood’s historic business district (Westwood historic Main Street and focal point), without diluting the effort across a large area, Westwood’s application of the FBC would be the smallest area of the first four neighborhoods, as compared to 187 acres in Walnut Hills, 155 acres in College Hill, and 150 acres in Madisonville.  Each neighborhood is indicating its preference based on neighborhood priorities and desire; in Westwood, we’re keeping it tight, focused, and achievable.   

Walnut Hills Gains City Council Approval of Form-Based Code for Neighborhood

At this week’s Neighborhoods Committee meeting and then the City Council meeting, the ordinance was passed regarding Walnut Hills’ application of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code to its business district.  This council action amends the official zoning map of the City of Cincinnati to reflect the rezoning of approximately 187 acres of Walnut Hills’ business district to transect zones laid out in the Form-Based Code.  Like Westwood, Walnut Hills has enjoyed significant community engagement and a commitment to bringing about positive development in line with community values and desires.

Westwood Ordinance Assigned to City’s Neighborhoods Committee

At its meeting on January 15, 2013, Cincinnati City Council assigned the ordinance submitted by Charles C. Graves, III, Director, City Planning and Buildings, to the Neighborhoods Committee and as recommends by the Westwood Coalition following months of community input. It reads as follows:

23-201400041 ORDINANCE, amending the official zoning map of the City of Cincinnati to reflect the rezoning of that portion of the Westwood neighborhood of Cincinnati generally within the compact walkable area surrounding the Neighborhood Business District, as identified in Plan Cincinnati, from various conventional zoning districts in Title XIV of the Cincinnati Municipal Code, “Zoning Code of the City of Cincinnati,” to various transect zones set forth in Cincinnati Municipal Code Chapter 1703, “Form-Based Code.”

A public hearing will be held before the Neighborhoods Committee on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. in Council chambers.

Form Based Code Myths and Realities

The Cincinnati Form Based Code and, more specifically, its anticipated application to Westwood’s historic business district, has spawned some misconceptions or myths.  The Westwood Coalition offers our neighbors this two page list of myths and corresponding realities.  We hope that you will take a look, read more deeply in our Further Reading section, and share this information with friends and neighbors.  Feel free to email the Coalition with questions and comments.   Here is the list of Form Based Code Myths and Realities.

Mark your calendar, details forthcoming:  The next Westwood Coalition community meeting will be the evening of December 2, 2013.

 

Another Endorsement Received

Westwood Historical Society has notified the Westwood Coalition of its endorsement of the recommendations of the Coalition.  This support means that all four organizations represented by the Coalition have given the nod to the recommendation to apply the form-based code to the historic business district and to continue to develop plans for the revitalization of the same area.  The Coalition meets this week and will notify city officials and Westwood residents of its next steps and community meetings.  Thanks for your comments and suggestions.