Convention zoning emerged as a way to separate incompatible uses, avoiding the hazards of collocating noxious industries and residential areas, among other concerns. While effective in this regard, conventional zoning can produce neighborhoods that lack housing diversity or access to commercial services that are compatible with residential neighborhoods. In many cases, the traditional neighborhood seen and valued in many older cities, with a mix of uses and housing types, becomes illegal under conventional zoning. While most cities have updated their zoning codes to allow mixed uses, proponents of form-based zoning may argue that these solutions are overly complicated, and less effective in fostering a particular neighborhood character.
Form-based zoning, as an alternative solution, places emphasis on the form and design of a neighborhood rather than its uses. At the same time, the two zoning concepts can be blended, and many cities have adopted elements of form-based zoning to complement conventional zoning. (Sometimes called hybrid codes) Practical examples for many variations can be found in the sources linked below, particularly from MRSC.
- Form-Based Codes Institute
- Massachusetts Smart Growth Toolkit: Form-Based Codes
- Missing Middle: How to Regulate
- MRSC: Form-Based Codes and Traditional Neighborhood Development – contains overview and thorough list of links to policy guides and local code examples.
- PSRC: Form-Based Zoning