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Downtown Form-Based Code

Downtown Form-Based Code

As recommended in planBTV-Downtown & Waterfront, we are now working on a new set of zoning regulations for the downtown and waterfront. The model we are following is known as "form-based". Form-based components of development regulations are intended to foster more predictable built results and a higher-quality public realm by ephasizing physical form rather than the separation of land uses. Form-based regulations are not subjective guidelines, but instead are detailed a prescriptive standards that are adopted as part of the development regulation. 


A form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. A form-based code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted as part of a city, town, or county development regulation. (Form-Based Code Institute)

A form-based code offers a powerful alternative to conventional zoning regulations sbecause they address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in both words and clearly drawn diagrams and other visuals, and are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development, rather than only making distinctions regarding land-use types.

This approach contrasts with conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS), to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory. They are drafted to implement a community plan, and seek to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism. Ultimately, a form-based code is only a tool; the quality of development outcomes depends on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements.


The City Council has created a Joint Committee with the Planning Commission to begin the official review of the proposed the new form-based code. Here are meeting dates planned for the Joint Committee. Clicking on a link you will find a meeting agenda.

Other Meetings and Events:

Prior to making their final recommendations to the Planning Commission, the Joint Form Based Code Committee is taking things on the road to share with community members what they've been working on. Please join us at one of these up-coming NPA meetings to learn more and share your thoughts:

  • Ward 6 on Thursday May 5. They meet at 83 Summit Street (Morgan Room, Aiken Hall, Champlain College) starting at 7pm
  • Ward 1 on Wednesday May 11. They meet in the McClure Lobby Conference Room, UVM Medical Center starting at 7pm
  • Ward 2/3 on Thursday May 12. They meet at the McClure Multigenerational Center on  241 North Winooski Avenue starting at 6:30pm (the community dinner starts at 5:30)
  • Ward 5 on Thursday May 19. They meet in the DPW / Parks & Rec Conference Room at  645 Pine St starting at 7pm


Click here to download the NEWEST version of the DRAFT CODE (April 8, 2016).


Several people have brought questions to the forefront concerning the proposed Form-Based Code. Here are the answers to many of these questions. This document will be updated during the review process and as more questions com up.


- Departments of the City of Burlington -