So this was a snowy Sunday, the day after the blizzard. And I’ve always been a geek about zoning – that’s the issue that initially brought me to City Hall and to neighborhood advocacy, way back in the day.
I picked up a a booklet from my pile of stuff to read one of these days: SmartCode v 9.0. Used to be one had to memorize the zoning code and all its intricacies to win the complex battles between neighborhoods and developers.
Now there’s a new idea out there in ‘hoods across the country – form-based codes – which cover building types, setbacks, streetscapes. The focus is on shaping the public realm, creating a walkable community with a mix of uses and housing types.
And on having community destinations like groceries and libraries close enough that the car can stay in the garage.
The focus is decidedly not on whether an accountant can run a business out of her home in this particular zone. It is on creating a sense of place, of community, that makes sense to the folk living there.
With the SmartCode, the issues are discussed way before a development is proposed. Citizens and experts, legislators and developers talk about what will work best in their hamlet, town or city. What should the height of the buildings be? Are there architectural features that make this place special? What about public space and pocket parks?
When all that’s worked out and worked over beforehand, the battles just disappear. Developers know what the rules are, and residents know the developers will comply. This structure brings positive energy to the development process, not the legal wrangling we’ve all be used to.
Cincinnati Councilmember Roxanne Qualls is championing the adoption of the SmartCode for our city. After the citizens get a good look at this concept, I’m sure they will, too!