Housing Task Force hears about form-based codes

By Sam Shriver - sshriver@limanews.com

LIMA —The Lima Housing Task Force continues its work to examine Lima’s housing stock and how to better regulate it.

During the meeting, held virtually, members heard from Marta Goldsmith, director of the Form-Based Code Institute.

Goldsmith spoke about how form-based codes can be a tool for economic and community development.

“Form-based code focuses on what happens outside the buildings,” said Goldsmith. “It regulates what happens in the streets, the blocks, the building form and scale and the open space — whether it’s public or private, what it looks like, how it’s used, how it creates outdoor rooms for people to walk through or drive through and doesn’t focus as much on the usage or what happens inside the building, like residential uses or commercial uses.

The use of form-based codes can help pull together public places and residential neighborhoods.

“It’s based on and designed to implement a vision or a plan for the area and the goal is to ensure that the physical characteristics of that vision is maintained over time. The overall goal is to create walkable mixed-use diverse neighborhoods,” Goldsmith said.

The Lima Housing Task Force continues to look at Lima’s housing situation and its goal is to create a 10-year action plan to meet housing needs while improving the quality of life in Lima.

One possible solution is enacting form-based codes.

“Form-based code starts with a community vision. So the place has a definition that has an identity and this is something that developers and young professionals and investors like to know that the place they’re coming to is in fact a place with a direction and a vision and is specifically designed to build on and improve the character of the place so you might has a historic building, you might have walkable streets because many of them weren’t designed before the car. Those features are taken and written into the code,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith admits there can be people displaced in some neighborhoods if form-based codes are adopted.

“Local leaders must adopt policies and programs that work with form-based codes to mitigate displacement and create opportunities for a wider range of housing options. Form-based codes can create the regulatory framework for that. But, in particular, because what we’ve seen is form-based codes tend to make places more attractive and when places are more attractive, property values go up. And those places tend to lead to displacement. So, if you’re going to adopt a form-based code as one of your tools to stimulate economic development and investment, you also have to anticipate that displacement could occur, and you need to build policies that are going to keep that from happening,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith estimates that the cost of hiring a form-based code consultant could vary depending upon the complexity of what a community is seeking.

During the discussion, developer Mike Blass indicated his support to do something about Lima’s zoning codes.

“I think everybody on this task force needs to recognize that if we’re going to do anything meaningful long-term about housing we need to put together a short-term plan and I think a short-term plan is a five-year plan,” Blass said. “This is not a problem that’s going to get solved overnight. And I think that we should not make decisions based on whether or not to try something, because it might take too long. If we’re going to do that, this is going to go nowhere fast. The current zoning that we have in the city of Lima needs to be fixed. So whether we fix it in some form or fashion and keep it in its current more antiquated form, or we go to a form-based code either way it’s going to take years, there is no quick fix here.”


By Sam Shriver


Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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