Form-Based Code Training Resources

As part of our ongoing Cape Housing Institute, Housing Assistance welcomed more than 50 municipal officials and staff from 12 Cape Cod towns on February 10, 2020 to a workshop on using form-based code. Form-based code takes a visual approach to zoning that describes the type of buildings that towns want to see in specific areas—rather than a traditional zoning approach that describes what cannot be built and includes a lot of detail about how buildings can be used. Form-based code is a tool that community members, town governments and developers can use to help housing get built faster and with fewer conflicts than traditional zoning. Many towns of the Cape are considering form-based code as a way of promoting quicker housing production. The Cape Cod Commissions Form-Based Code Framework provides an excellent overview of the process of creating form-based code and provides a summary of resources available to support towns in the final few pages.

Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori and Chief Planner Chloe Schaefer kicked off the workshop with presentations on the housing challenge facing the region and the Cape Cod Commission’s Community Resiliency By Design project. In that project, the Commission and Union Studio engaged five towns (Barnstable, Sandwich, Falmouth, Orleans, and Eastham) in a visual design preference survey and moderate density housing design concepts for specific areas of town—materials that can be used to create form-based code.

Next, Joel VanderWeele of Union Studio provided a fundamentals of form-based code training, including why this approach appeals to many communities. He explained the general principles of successful form-based codes, noting they include a robust community engagement and participation process to articulate the vision for an area. He shared the form-based code framework that the Commission and Union Studios created to help towns who want to explore this option, along with many other resources for developing form-based code.

Finally, George Proakis, AICP, Form-Based Codes Institute Board Member and Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development for the City of Somerville, shared many examples of towns effectively using form-based code to update and invigorate housing production. Proakis’ presentation illustrated the limits and unintended negative consequences of conventional zoning for today’s communities. He then fielded a number of questions from the audience about how form-based codes could be implemented here on Cape Cod. The Form-Based Codes Institute Resource Page provides many examples and references.

Already, some towns are exploring form-based code in specific areas. Using the Community Resiliency by Design effort, form-based codes framework and other planning work, the Town of Falmouth is seeking to develop form-based code for the Davis Straits area. Through the state-funded District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) program, the Commission is supporting this effort, helping the town to draft an effective request for proposals (RFP) for a consultant to carry out this work.

Housing Assistance is grateful to have been able to offer this workshop free of charge thanks to financial support from the people of Falmouth through the Community Preservation Fund, The Cape Cod Foundation and the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS.

Form-Based Code Workshop Speakers