Form Based Code: When the City takes over development

The City of Asheville held it's form based code kick off meeting last Wednesday, June 17th at 6pm.  Since we are property owners and the City is always saying how important it is that we go to these meetings, we attended. What a waste of time.
Featuring Curve Studios, owned by Pattiy Torno (Chair of AARRC)

Why? No one was allowed to ask questions
No questions - the meeting was led by Stephanie Dahl who went into a huge pitch about how wonderful it was and that this was being done because the City had "heard all of our complaints." Funny, I don't remember one story about that in the media or elsewhere.  The zoning didn't hurt the Supper Club, New Belgium or the 95/96/97 Roberts Street, The Wedge, Whiteduck Taco and the host of other businesses from starting up.  In fact, a few of these places (and other RAD properties) were changed from River zoning to "Urban Place" by the property owners back in 2007 and then subsequently changed back to River zoning because Urban Place was too restrictive.

Then, there was one Code Studio representative who led the entire presentation and started off with - "This is a one way presentation."  He said they were not there to answer any questions; only to inform us of the process. He walked though the powerpoint slides as though we could not read.  They are now online.  

Second, this form based code will REPLACE the current River District zoning.  So, we want to know, what is wrong with the current zoning?  As stated before, many properties were changed to Urban Place zoning, a far better type of zoning supposedly but then changed back to River zoning because it was too restrictive.

What will happen to established businesses and buildings that are not in conformity with the new code?  What about when they want to make changes, additions to their buildings? Who decides?

Does form based code impact a property owners' ability to sell?  In other words, form based code has a limited set of "allowed uses."  What if I want to sell my property but a potential buyer realizes their purpose is not on the allowed use, then what? How easy is it to get approval?

We would like to know whose idea it was to implement form based code?  This entire presentation made ONE HUGE assumption and that was that form based code was a done deal - no ifs, ands or buts about it.  So, what if a majority of property owners are completely opposed to the entire idea of form based code?

Where are real world examples of Allowed Uses? For example, light industrial is an allowed use in the Haywood Form Based Code... but what is considered light industrial?  Does that include Auto Auction place? Does that include Asheville Waste Paper?

Who are the "stakeholders?"  We also know that the City setup "stakeholder" meetings with 12 different stakeholders (that the City chose) and those people got to meet specifically with Code Studio.  Who were they and why them?  We are betting that Pattiy Torno (whose building is featured in the Kick off brochure, above) was included as a stakeholder but wait, she is also chair of the AARRC so we're pretty sure that the form based code will be to her liking.

"Conformity" Code - someone said this on Facebook and I thought it was appropriate
Code Studio has been making a lot of money implementing form based code throughout the country. They are in the process of doing so for the entire city of Los Angeles.  But, we are not Los Angeles. We are also not Knoxville.  We are not Chattanooga or Chapel Hill.  So, why would a company from Texas think they know what Asheville wants?  If you compare the other form based codes they've implemented in these other cities, you will see they use the same graphics and setup. They always create a Facebook page, website page and use the same sketches.  Why does Asheville and the River Arts District want to look exactly like those places?  The designs look like a template in which they simply change the name of the town.  What happened to artists working in these industrial buildings that they themselves design?  The independence of design is lost with form based code and we begin to look like everyone else.

Other questions: Does it address graffiti?  What about the "industrial" look that everyone likes - why can't it stay?  Would RADLofts have been approved under Form Based Code? What impact will it have on places like the Bywater whose visitors practically camp out at the river?  What impact does form based code have on contiguous neighborhoods that don't have form based code? For example, the boundary of the form based code will go all the way to Hillcrest neighborhood but does not include that neighborhood.  Why not?

It supposedly simplifies the building code, but for whom? In reviewing the Haywood Form Based Code, it appears to put a lot more development control in the hands of the City. Throughout the code it states that the Planning & Development Director has the authority to change, amend and approve any deviations.

If you want to know the real reason why the City wants form based code, read the following related articles:

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