Euclidean vs. form-based?

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4 chances to shape City’s new approach to zoning
 
COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington is totally revamping its approach to zoning, and it’s urging the public to help shape the new plan at the beginning stages rather than react after the fact.
 
Anybody who lives, owns property or runs a business in Covington is invited to four events at the end of the month to offer opinions, concerns, and goals on how and why development happens and how neighborhoods look and “feel.”
 
In that vein, if you’ve ever: 
  • Wanted to complain about a development project not being appropriate for its location ... 
  • Scratched your head about the way a new building looks compared to those around it ... 
  • Looked around a neighborhood and thought “I love this place and I want to make sure new development fits in well” ... 
  • Eyed a vacant building at the end of your block and envisioned a coffee shop, book store, dry cleaner, or other neighborhood business ... 
  • Wanted the zoning and design permit processes to be simpler and quicker ... 
  • Or thought the City’s current Zoning Ordinance was unwieldy and unfriendly. 
... then you might want to attend these events.
 
Or, as Christopher Myers, the City’s Preservation and Planning Specialist, puts it: “If you’ve seen development in your neighborhood or favorite area of Covington that made it better, or you see an example of where an opportunity was missed to make it better, these events are for you.”
 
The gatherings take place April 29-May 1 (details are below). They range from a drop-in-at-any-time 8-hour open design studio to a 2-hour presentation on work-in-progress.
 
Attendees will have a chance to talk with staff from both the City and its consultants. The City hired Kendig Keast Collaborative - who also brought in Dover, Kohl & Partners - to oversee the transition from a rigid, traditional, Euclidean zoning code to what is known as a form-based code, or Neighborhood Development Code (more on that below too).
 
“People shouldn’t worry about not being able to speak legalese or being able to speak the so-called language of zoning,” said Alex Koenig, the City’s Zoning and Development Specialist. “We have experts who can listen to the public’s ideas, concerns, and opinions and make sure those are reflected in actual regulations.”
 
Zoning is the process by which communities guide physical development of land and buildings to reduce conflicts and create complementary spaces.
 
But many people say that Covington’s Zoning Ordinance:
  • Hasn’t kept up to date with development trends.
  • Can be unwieldy and frustrating.
  • Can take money and time - often too much of both - to obtain exceptions to land-use laws in the form of variances, conditional use permits, text amendments, and map amendments.
  • Doesn’t take into consideration Covington’s historic character.
  • And blocks some of the type of development the City wants to attract. 
Euclidean vs. form-based:
A traditional code like Covington’s existing ordinance zeroes in on specific land “uses” and typically assigns buildings and/or spaces only one use, thus separating the City by use.
 
A form-based code encourages mixed uses and focuses more on the “form” of buildings and their relation to adjoining spaces and the streetscape. It uses standards and design ideas to preserve the character or “feel” of an area.
 
“Our ordinance seems to focus on what we don’t want,” Myers said. “We want a guiding document that by right allows us to pursue development that we do want. We also want to make those good investments - this smart, sensitive development - easier to implement instead of throwing up roadblocks.”
 
About the events:
  • Charrette Kick-Off & Hands-on Design Session - Monday, April 29, 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. - Covington Latin High School (11 E. 11th St.) - Informative, hands-on presentation on form-based codes, town planning, and community revitalization. After the presentation, you can work with your neighbors to draw your vision for Covington’s future. 
  • Open Design Studio - Tuesday, April 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. - Hellmann Creative Center, (321 M.L. King Jr. Blvd.) - Stop by the studio at any time during these open hours and talk with the design team and help shape the plan. 
  • Open Design Studio - Wednesday, May 1, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. - Hellmann Creative Center - Stop by the studio at any time during these open hours and talk with the design team and help shape the plan. 
  • Work-in-progress Presentation - Wednesday, May 1, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. - Hellmann Creative Center - In this wrap-up presentation, see all of the work completed during and after Charrette week of drafting ideas for Covington’s future.
 
For questions about the Neighborhood Development Code effort, contact Christopher Myers, the City’s Preservation and Planning Specialist, at cmyers@covingtonky.gov.
 
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