What are Hybrid FBCs?

A Form-Based Code is an alternative to a traditional zoning code (often referred to as Euclidian Zoning) that allows municipalities to better manage land development. Traditional zoning focuses mostly on how property can be used, e.g. for residential, commercial, or industrial uses. These codes were very useful at a time when it was important to separate very toxic and dangerous uses (such as industrial uses) from residential uses. Hybrid-Form Based Code

However, Euclidian codes often place little to no emphasis on the form (or shape) of buildings and their relationship to streets, public spaces, and surrounding development. In addition, their reliance on separating uses into different zones often ran counter to the traditional development patterns that make places like Media a desirable place to live.

In the past, this has created instances in which residents feel that development created under Euclidian codes is “out of character” with the community. With Euclidian codes, residents have been surprised that what was built was permitted. As a result, many communities took a reactive approach. They significantly limited the types of development that could happen in their communities for fear that allowing anything else would result in bad development. Unfortunately, this approach also led many communities to prohibit the types of development that existed and which they appreciated and wanted. It also restricted their ability to meet key community goals, such as providing access to a wide variety of living opportunities, attracting new residents, providing affordable housing options, and encouraging investment in historic properties.

Form-based codes (FBCs) provide an alternative approach to regulating land development. Originally conceived to address issues in suburban greenfield development, they have been increasingly popular in communities with a long development history.

FBC codes focus more attention on the form of the building and can include standards for how development relates to streets and open spaces. In FBC, the use that occupies the building is often of secondary importance. As such, FBCs start with standards for building typologies (also called development typologies) as an organizing element, rather than use. These typologies include strong graphics which allow residents and property owners to see what can and cannot be built. However, building typologies are not architectural guidelines and do not dictate style. Many people find the below graphic illustrative of the difference between Euclidian zoning, form-based zoning, and architectural design guidelines.

Hybrid codes have emerged as communities like Media look to integrate different elements of traditional and Euclidian zoning to best meet their specific needs.