This is the 11th post in a series of posts this December that will chronicle the 25 things we would most like to see in Roswell. None of these are actually happening... at least in the way we'd like them to. Please enjoy and have a happy holidays!
This one goes along with the DPZ charette. I know it's not going to happen but we need it to. We are already behind the curve on this one. If you don't know what the Smart Code or other Form-Based Codes are about, check out this wikipedia link. To summarize, form-based codes regulate the form of the urban fabric while used based codes regulate what types of land uses can go where. Used based codes are extremely limiting and do not give developers, builders, citizens and governments flexibility in what they want to build and where.
It has become common knowledge that our zoning has in large part led to the sprawling mess that America has in its suburbs today. The old Euclidean, use based zoning codes are on their way out and are making way for form based codes such as the Smart Code which essentially make it easier to create mixes of uses and consistent blocks, streets and neighborhoods which then create places where people want to be rather than places where cars want to be.
The trend is accelerating. Currently Georgia has 13 form-based codes. These include Woodstock's downtown, Lawrenceville's downtown, and the city of Mableton among others. Georgia trails six states in the number of codes adopted. The top three states in order are Florida, California and Texas. For more information check out the Code Study. The current economic slowdown is the exact time that we as a city should be demanding a new code. The days where the answer to our problems was to zone more commercial to bring in more tax revenue are over. If you'd like a primer on why more commercial zoning is akin to monkeys pushing buttons, check out Chuck Mahron's post on his Strong Towns Blog. So, we've reached a point where we are saturated in retail as a city, state and country. We have six times the amount of retail square footage per capita than our next closest consumer rival. We don't need more of what we have. We need to prioritize and make what we have better.
Here is a graphic that compares traditional zoning with form-based codes:
I think it's hard to argue that form-based codes offer some distinct advantages when looking to rebuild a city. So, my wish list couldn't be complete without a shiny new Smart Code to completely replace our existing zoning codes.
images: Form-Based Codes Institute, 1000 Friends of Florida