New Albany's "form-based" zoning code will go into effect next month for new developments in the urban center.

New Albany's "form-based" zoning code will go into effect next month for new developments in the urban center.

City council on May 17 approved two ordinances related to the new code. The first established the urban center district and the other amended all existing zoning chapters to include the new regulations.

Kathryn Meyer, deputy director of community development, said, according to New Albany's strategic plan, new zoning regulations were needed "to allow for pedestrian scale and oriented development to be maintained and built without extensive reviews and approvals."

As a result, city staff members spent the last two years developing the Urban Center Code, which "will benefit businesses, residents, developers and city government by providing increased certainty in allowable building forms, less time required for approvals and increased assurance that the envisioned village center master plan will be achieved," according to city staff reports. Rather than relying text-based traditional codes, "a form-based code is predominately visuals and graphics, which results in improved clarity and understanding."

City officials also have said that the form-based code differs from traditional zoning codes in that it emphasizes building form, massing and relationship to the street and existing buildings, instead of emphasizing land uses.

The new code has been being reviewed by several planning bodies, as well as tenants and business owners currently living and operating in New Albany's urban center.

Meyer said the city has held more than 25 public hearings on the code as of last week and more are planned. The planning commission and architectural review board (ARB) have reviewed the code, with the planning commission recommending a few changes.

The code affects 230 properties in the city center, which will be rezoned as the urban center district, perhaps as soon as one of city council's June meetings.

Meyer said many of the properties in the urban center currently do not conform to codes. The Urban Center Code will bring those properties in line with code and would provide default zoning regulations for land already zoned within a planned-unit development. Planned-unit developments often have more extensive development text. Meyer said any aspect of a planned-unit development not controlled by existing development text would be regulated by the Urban Center Code.

Meyer said city staff members would have more approval power under the new code and developers and city staff alike should benefit from the clearly stated guidelines. The new code also gives the ARB the authority to approve waivers of alterations and variances, as well as hear appeals on staff approvals.