The city, which is considering new zoning for downtown and the west side industrial corridor, has scheduled a public seminar on a new zoning technique it hopes to use.

Paul Crawford, chairman of the Form-Based Codes Institute, will speak from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8, in the Council Chambers of the Evanston Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave.

Form-based codes emphasize the physical form of developments and place less emphasis than traditional zoning codes on regulating land uses.

The form-based rules are usually presented in both diagrams and words and control the shape and mass of buildings and the relationship of buildings to the street and one another.

Traditional zoning is often called Euclidean zoning, after the Village of Euclid, Ohio, the defendant in a 1920s U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld municipal zoning regulation.

Euclidean zoning focuses on separating disparate land uses from each other and regulating development intensity with numeric parameters including height limits, setbacks and floor area ratios.

In recent years Evanston has also used incentive zoning for larger planned development projects which offer developers height or other bonuses for including public amenities on-site.

Both planners the city hired last month to study the west side industrial corridor, Farr Associates and JJR, LLC, specialize in form-based zoning.

Neighborhood Planner Susan Guderly says city staff met with the consultants this week to begin work on the projects and that she anticipates the consultants will hold meetings with neighborhood groups during August, but none have yet been scheduled.

The consultants are expected to produce final reports for the Plan Commission and City Council by October.

The City Council earlier this month voted to extend a moratorium on new-construction building permits in the west side corridor until Dec. 12. The moratorium, imposed in April to provide time for the planning process, had been scheduled to expire Aug. 10.

A subcommittee of the Plan Commission has been discussing downtown zoning for several months and has recently worked with the Preservation Commission to identify downtown buildings that might be considered for landmark status.

Some Plan Commission members have suggested that form-based zoning may offer solutions to difficulties they’ve encountered in trying to develop a clear strategy for the downtown area’s future.

Form-based zoning has often been associated with so-called “Smart Growth” and “New Urbanism” concepts, but it has also been criticized as overly-constraining and difficult to interpret.

Related links
Wikipedia – Zoning
Michigan Land Use Institute – ‘Picture This,’ Petoskey Planners Suggest

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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