John M. Barry

Document Type



The conventional zoning practices that became widely accepted in the later part of the twentieth century have drastically changed the way American cities and towns have been physically planned and developed. Conventional zoning has encouraged suburban sprawl through its promotion of low density and single use development. The consequences of this type of zoning are not limited to the physical design of the neighborhoods in which we live and work. Sprawl has also changed the way in which Americans conduct their daily lives as we increasingly rely on the automobile to commute to school and work or run errands. Not only is this mode of transportation extremely costly in the midst of the current energy crisis, but isolated automobile travel further limits public interaction, which would otherwise occur if cities and towns developed in a more traditional form. Form-based codes present a promising zoning alternative to sprawl-inducing conventional ordinances. Unlike conventional zoning, form-based codes place a primary emphasis in the design—rather than the use—of buildings and encourage higher density, mixed use development. The physical result is a more pedestrianfriendly community, mimicking the way cities and towns have traditionally developed. Recently, cities across the United States have grown weary of conventional zoning ordinances and have begun to adopt form-based codes. Some municipalities have entirely abandoned their conventional zoning ordinances and have adopted mandatory form-based codes, while other cities have implemented an optional format in which the individual developer is given the right to choose to build according to the conventional ordinance or the form-based code. Although mandatory and optional form-based codes differ in how they are applied, both formats have proven successful where adopted.