City Planning

City Planning

Form-Based Code


The City of Cincinnati undertook a form-based code study to determine how this zoning tool could be incorporated into the new Land Development Code.  The study took several years and the development of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code itself took another several years.  The Code is a tool that neighborhoods and/or developers can voluntarily choose to implement in the compact walkable areas as defined by Plan Cincinnati.

Form-based codes are an innovative alternative to conventional zoning that focus on the form of buildings rather than the land use. For example, form-based codes focus on the physical character of buildings and the relationship of buildings to each other and to the street.

A consulting team consisting of Opticos Design Inc., glaserworks, Urban Design Associates, Hall Planning & Engineering, Urban Advisors, Brandt Retail Group, and Wise Economy Workshop helped assist the Department of City Planning in the development of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code.  Other stakeholders, neighborhoods, and City Departments also played an important role in the process.

The Cincinnati Form-Based Code was approved by the City Planning Commission in March 2013 and by City Council in May 2013.  The first four neighborhoods to implement this new zoning tool include Madisonville (October 2013), College Hill (November 2013), Walnut Hills (January 2014), and Westwood (February 2014). 


Study Documents


The following poster includes the definition of Form-Based Codes, the standard three-step standard process for creating a Form-Based Code, why Form-Based Codes are needed, and components of a Form-Based Code.

Form-Based Code Institute

The Form-Based Code Institute (FBCI) has the goal of setting standards for the practice of Form-Based Coding. The FBCI website includes links to books, articles, code documents, and additional resources from the FBCI.

Plan Cincinnati

Plan Cincinnati and the vision of "Thriving Re-Urbanization" laid out the groundwork for the purpose and development of the Form-Based Code.  The Plan, Cincinnati's first Comprehensive Plan in over 30 years, can be downloaded and viewed at:

Public and the Process

The Form-Based Code process has been extensive, and has included:

  • The Form-Based Code Working Group (neighborhood leaders, organizations, City staff, etc.), which has been meeting for over 4 years
  • Several Trips to Nashville, Tennessee (led by Roxanne Qualls) to understand and see results of a successful Form-Based Code
  • The Cincinnati Form-Based Code Initiative Working Group (planners, developers, architects, etc.), which has been meeting for over 4 years
  • Stakeholder Interviews conducted before and during the Citywide Charrette
  • The Citywide Charrette/Urban Design Workshop (April 28 - May 2, 2012), where citizens and stakeholders were included in development of the Form-Based Code
  • The Public Review Draft of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code (September 2012)
  • Informational/Education Meetings at the City Planning Commission and Livable Communities Committee of City Council (October 2012)
  • The Neighborhood Charrette (October 29 - November 1, 2012), where College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills, and Westwood were the first 4 neighborhoods to begin the visioning process and testing the Form-Based Code in their compact walkable areas
  • Final Draft of the Cincinnati Form-Based Code (February 2013)
  • Special City Planning Commission Meeting where the Cincinnati Form-Based Code was approved with few amendments (March 7, 2013)
  • Livable Communities Committee of City Council (May 7, 2013)
  • City Council Meeting where the Cincinnati Form-Based Code was approved unanimously (May 8, 2013)

The approved Chapter 1703 Form-Based Code can be downloaded as a PDF:

For more information related to the Cincinnati Form-Based Code, please contact:

Ann Marie Kerby, City Planner, 513-352-4886