# 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

# Math Quiz!

1. Which building height would be taller?
a. 55 feet
b. 85 feet

Did you guess 85 feet? That’s right! 85 feet is the maximum height of a building in Westwood’s business district under CURRENT zoning code. The application of the Form-Based Code to this same area results in a maximum height of only 50-55 feet, thus reducing the maximum size of a building in our business district, while also imposing Westwood’s preferences for form, thus retaining Westwood’s special character, and allowing a mixture of uses.

Ready for another question?

2. Which ratio best describes the homeowner-occupied vs. rental unit ratio described as desirable by the 2010 Westwood Strategic Plan*?
a. 60/40
b. 40/60
c. 50/50

Did you guess a. 60/40? You’re right! And that’s what the Westwood application of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code will achieve in the historic business district, assuming the maximum possible build out of the designated areas. The application of the code designates 60% of the area as T3 which is single family housing. The concentration of mixed use along Harrison Avenue is friendly to residents who want to shop and eat and seek services in the area, to developers looking for clarity about a neighborhood’s interests, and to the historic, lovely nature of the surrounding housing stock.

*The Strategic Plan identifies the 60/40 split in Goal #1, Housing and Neighborhood Development. It calls for the revitalization of the business district in Goal #4.

# Coalition to Host Meeting December 2

The Westwood Coalition welcomes the community to a meeting at Westwood United Methodist Church on December 2 at 7 p.m.  We’ve talked about the Form Based Code before but this time, we’ll present refinements to the application of the Cincinnati Form Based Code to the historic business district.

Wondering what that means?  Well, back in August, about 80 of us came together to look at maps and talk about the area that might benefit from the Form Based Code.  We said in our report and recommendations that we’d get back together as a community to share further developments to the map, or regulating plan, once City Planning officials refined it.  Come to the meeting to see the details.  Bring a neighbor with you.

You might want to read our two page Form Based Code Myths and Realities in advance for a better sense of what the code is — and what it is not.

# 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.