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planBTV Downtown Code

planBTV Downtown  Code

As recommended in planBTV-Downtown & Waterfront, the Planning Department has been hard at work developing 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 emphasizing 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 because 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 micro management 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.


In the fall of 2014 the City Council created a Joint Committee with the Planning Commission to begin the official review of the proposed the new form-based code. Below are meeting dates and agendas of the Joint Committee:

In May 2016 the Joint Form Based Code Committee took their Draft Code on the road to share with community members what they've been working on and solicit feedback. They held a total of 4 neighborhood meetings (Ward 6 on Thursday May 5, Ward 1 on Wednesday May 11, Ward 2/3 on Thursday May 12, and Ward 5 on Thursday May 19).

With the much anticipated redevelopment of the Burlington Town Center moving forward, several of the development and design standards from the proposed Code were incorporated into a new zoning overlay that was approved by the City Council in October and the Burlington voters on Nov 8, 2016. These new form-based development and design standards guided the zoning review of the Burlington Town Center Redevelopment Project which was approved unanimously by the Development Review Board on March 2017. The overall result of this "pilot" was that the final design of project was greatly influenced by these new form based standards, and the City's review process was much more transparent and predictable - a "win-win!"

The final steps toward adoption of the planBTV Downtown Code begins with a joint Planning Commission-City Council work session scheduled for Monday April 17, 2017 in Contois Auditorium beginning at 6pm. From here, the Joint Committee will make any final changes to the DRAFT Code at their meeting on May 1st before recommending it to the Planning Commission and the City Council for final adoption later this spring.


Click here to download the LATEST version of the DRAFT CODE (April 7, 2017).


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 come up.


- Departments of the City of Burlington -