Planning Board goes to school on Form Based Code
Three experts (a land use attorney and two others from Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline) spoke at the most recent Planning Board meeting to provide practical insights on how their cities have implemented land use changes.
Also in attendance were representatives from the City Council and Economic Development Commission and interested citizens. Stephen Clifton, Edmonds’ Economic Development Director, brought together the panel as part of an ongoing process to raise awareness and educate city leaders regarding new ways of approaching land use decisions.
Followers of the Edmonds strategic planning process currently underway in the city have heard the term Form Based Code.
The Planning Board will be considering its use as part of its upcoming review of long-term redevelopment of the Westgate business district.
This educational opportunity provided the Planning Board and others from the community to hear firsthand about the experiences of these nearby cities as they worked with their citizens to implement Form Based Code in areas within their community.
Form Based Code regulate the same elements as conventional zoning codes, but give higher priority to the form of buildings and streets, whereas zoning codes place higher priority on land use elements.
They provide cities a way to create more free flowing uses of spaces utilizing public input to create desired outcomes for outdoor recreation, dining, retail and living accommodations in a common area.
The speakers all agreed that whatever rules develop out of the process must be in agreement with the Comprehensive Plan and be uniformly applied.
Both city representatives indicated that they used a hybrid (i.e. mix of conventional and form based codes) approach to help with the transition.
When asked about the benefits, one speaker stressed that they worked very hard to obtain public input on the kind of town center that their citizens wanted to see in their city.
Both city representatives discovered, however, that they had very little progress toward desired improvements until they implemented their new Form Based strategy.
They also noted that once the new codes were developed, their experience had been that developers seemed to appreciate the clarity and certainty that the new approach offered.
This unofficial report of the recently completed meeting on June 27 was provided by Planning Board member Neil Tibbott.
Presentation slides from the panel discussion are also available on the city website www.edmondswa.gov at the Planning Board agenda for June 27, 2012.