Euclidian zoning codes can be adapted to improve development opportunities

Traditional zoning codes separate land uses into a variety of use categories. However, such codes can be modified to encourage and attract more creative development patterns.

Form-based codes are considered the ideal method of developing urban places with mix-use development. Unlike traditional Euclidian codes that focus on the separation of land uses as the basic organizational premise, form-based codes focus on the urban form and less on use separation. They allow a mix of commercial and residential uses within individual structures as they regulate building massing and the interaction between the public and private realm.

Zoning codes, like master plan development can and is often very expensive. For small communities with limited planning and zoning staff, the main solution to new or amended codes has been the way of the planning and zoning consultant. And generally, amendments are less expensive than new codes. In many cases, amendments, especially text amendments can to done with a relatively small staff. Form-based codes are designed to create urban form. Diverse communities consist of a variety of form types and community characteristics.

Cities with underutilized downtowns or commercial centers can adopt text amendments allowing mix-use in those areas where such uses are compatible. They can even incorporate illustrations showing the preferred regulations of such uses. While this process is not ideal, it is a less expensive method of encouraging more dense, more urban development in targeted areas of the city and or community. Areas with greater residential and commercial diversity have a higher chance of becoming and continuing to be economically viable. The goal will be to identify those areas and review the code to see what amendments can be made to encourage greater zoning flexibility and mix-use developments.

For more information or to speak with a Michigan State University Extension Educator, visit the MSU Extension website.

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