Form-Based Codes

Form-Based Codes

Form-Based Codes Workshop

On May 16, 2014, CMAP and the Form-Based Codes Institute held a free workshop on form-based codes, targeted to municipal staff and elected officials. Attended by over 50 participants, the workshop featured local and national experts who explained how this different approach to zoning can help communities reach their economic revitalization goals (presentations are available below).

Tony Perez Tony Perez
Director of Form-Based Coding
Opticos Design
Berkeley, CA
Form-Based Zoning vs. Conventional Zoning (65MB pdf)
Leslie Oberholtzer Leslie Oberholtzer
Chicago, IL
Form-Based Codes: Applicability to Our Region
(15MB pdf)
Geoffrey Ferrell Geoffrey Ferrell
Washington, DC
Form-Based Codes: Completing, Adopting and Administering the Code (Peoria, IL case study)
(4MB pdf)

A Step-by-Step Guide for Communities

One of the central goals of GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan is to make our region a better place to live. This means creating livable communities at the local level through planning and development decisions made by local government officials, developers, and individuals.

As communities have sought to reinvigorate their downtowns or create viable commercial corridors, many have found that conventional methods of zoning, oriented around regulating land use, may not address certain physical characteristics that contribute to the sense of place in a community. Form-based codes, which emphasize the physical character of development, offer an alternative.

This handbook (PDF) explains what form-based codes are and how they are created to help communities assess whether they may be right for them.

Who Should Use This Handbook?

Most communities lack the staff expertise and time necessary to develop a form-based code on their own and therefore choose to hire consultants to lead the effort and perform most of the work.

However, it is vital that municipalities understand the scope of work that is required in the creation of a form-based code. Municipalities that educate themselves on the typical steps that are necessary will be in a better position to gauge the amount of outside assistance that is needed, write a more precise request for proposals (RFP), evaluate consulting firms bidding for the project, facilitate the development of the code, monitor the work of hired consultants, and administer the new form-based code once it is adopted.

Different Methods

There are many approaches to creating a form-based code. Nevertheless, most methods share many of the same steps and specific practices. In order to provide municipalities in our region with an idea of what the creation of a form-based code could entail, this guide offers a synopsis of the comprehensive process recommended by architects Daniel and Karen Parolek of Opticos Design, Inc. and Paul Crawford in their influential textbook Form-Based Codes: A Guide for Planners, Urban Designers, Municipalities, and Developers.

Download the full low-resolution handbook

Download the full high-resolution handbook

(PLEASE NOTE: Due to a plugin issue inherent to Google Chrome, printing this document directly from Google Chrome may result in an improperly-scaled front and back cover. Printing directly from another browser or printing the downloaded document using Adobe Reader are recommended.)

For more information, please contact Stephen Ostrander:, or (312) 386-8696.

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Form-Based Codes: A Step-by-Step Guide for Communities (LOW-RES)