Form-Based Code

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Slide from the presentation by consulting firm Code Studio on proposed implementation of form-based codes on West Main Street. March 17, 2015. Download presentation

Form Based Code is a form of zoning that would be an alternative to existing building design guidelines and conventional zoning, particularly in the city’s entrance corridors. Form-based code focuses on the physical form of a building as opposed to the separation of uses (e.g. the land use designations of commercial or residential) as the basis for deciding what is appropriate in a given location.

Form-based codes allow a community to specify building mass, scale, detailing and public space standards up front for developers. Form-based codes can streamline what can otherwise be a protracted review process with discretionary reviews by staff and appointed officials (e.g. Board of Architectural Review).

Advocates of form-based codes believe they would clarify building requirements up front for developers and help ensure that building designs meet community expectations. By following the codes, developers would encounter a technical check list for their proposals as opposed to a negotiated design review.

Key events for Form-Based Codes in Albemarle County


The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted a form-based code for the Rio Road Small Area Plan on September 1, 2021. [1]


Albemarle County's Department of Community Development held a "Sidewalk Talk" on form-based code in order to begin the implementation phase for the Rio Road Small Area Plan. [citation needed]

Key events for Form-Based Codes in Charlottesville


In August 2013, the city’s PLACE Design Task Force recommended City Council consider adopting “form-based codes linked to street standards and stream-lined, expedited site plan review and approval; and best practices in community engagement and visioning.” Download report

In October 2013, Alexandria-based firm Rhodeside & Harwell began a “$340,000 comprehensive study of public infrastructure on and around West Main Street…to suggest possible changes to that corridor’s zoning in the wake of several high-profile developments.”[2][3]


In mid-2014 when the final appearance of the Flats at West Village on West Main Street didn’t match up to design renderings presented to City Council in late 2012, it sparked a review of the city’s existing zoning and design guidelines.[4]


In March 2015, consultant Code Studio presented draft form-based code recommendations for West Main Street.

In May 2015 city council discussed the benefits of form-based codes in the context of development on West Main Street.[5]


In March 2016, City Council approved the conceptual plan for the West Main Streetscape.[6]

In May 2016, Charlottesville officials recommended form-based codes be developed in a phased process for the city’s Strategic Investment Area.[7]

In September 2016, the Urban Land Institute sponsored a seminar on how Nashville adopted a form-based code. [8]


On July 17, Council voted to allocate $228,000 to the Form Based Code Institute to rewrite a section of the zoning ordinance in the Strategic Investment Area. [9]

FBCI presented their work to the City Council and the Planning Commission on October 26, 2017. (Materials)


A joint work session of City Council and the Planning Commission will discuss the draft Form-Based Code for Phase 1A of the Strategic Investment Area on August 15, 2019.


Charlottesville City Council voted to table the proposal indefinitely. [10]


  1. Web. Actions - Board of Supervisors Meeting of September 1, 2021, Albemarle County, retrieved February 16, 2022.
  2. Web. Council wants more public input on streets review, delays on whether to hire consultant, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 4 Nov. 2014, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  3. Web. West Main: Shared street, more green space, or a boulevard?, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 22 Feb. 2014, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  4. Web. New apartment building raises questions about development process, Reuben Jones, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 24 Aug. 2014, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  5. Web. Council wants more time to decide on West Main rezoning, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 24 May 2015, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  6. Web. Council chooses path for West Main streetscape, partially approves rezoning, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 22 Mar. 2016, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  7. Web. City Council, Planning Commission encourage form-based code for Strategic Investment Area, Tim Dodson, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 27 May 2016, retrieved 28 Aug. 2016.
  8. Web. Planner describes how “form-based” zoning changed Nashville, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 21, 2016, retrieved January 11, 2017.
  9. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 17, 2017.
  10. Web. City Council shelves form-based code, Nolan Stout, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, February 5, 2020, retrieved February 10, 2020. Print. February 5, 2020 page A1.

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