The City shall work with ODOT, CTUIR and other public and private partners to maintain and enhance Downtown for all modes of transportation (pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit, and freight) consistent with the Downtown Plan and the Transportation System Plan.
The Downtown Plan will be implemented, in part, through amendments to the City of Pendleton Zoning Ordinance. As summarized earlier, Pendleton’s zoning ordinance is fairly conventional. The “base” zoning regulations control land use and density, but they do not provide much direction for design or historic compatibility. In the Downtown, with its historically significant buildings, that is a shortcoming.
An alternative to conventional (Euclidean or “use-based”) zoning has emerged in the last two decades. “Form-based zoning” focuses more on the form, scale and detailing of buildings, blocks and streets and less on the uses permitted in those buildings. Unlike performance zoning, which was created to make Euclidean zoning more flexible, form-based zoning aims at a different failing, the fact that earlier tools were not producing the types of districts and neighborhoods that people wanted.
Form-based codes address the concern that building height, lot coverage, and setback controls are far too crude to address the true impacts of building size and shape. While Euclidean codes define imaginary boxes within which each building has to fit (height, setback, coverage), many of the great places we all like to visit don’t fit into such boxes, Some have continuous frontage along the streets with no spaces between buildings; some have occasional buildings much taller than the rest. Many allow public and religious buildings and monuments to violate the boxes, and having a big town hall or cathedral at the end of a boulevard creates a sense of place. That can’t easily be done within standardized boxes (Euclidean zoning) unless a set of standards (box) is created for each unique site.
In addition to the problem with generalized, uniform patterns of boxes, Euclidean zoning may do nothing to ensure the quality of development within those boxes; buildings inside the boxes can be beautiful or ugly, and that can make more difference to neighbors than the specific use inside the building. Form-based zoning is more prescriptive about what streetscapes, parking areas, and buildings must look like. Form-based codes may regulate building height relative to the width of the street, details on the façade, placement of parking and public buildings within a block, street furnishings, landscaping, and the architectural style of the buildings, among other things. In general, the controls are intended to create or reinforce a distinctive sense of place, and establish a more pedestrian-oriented (as opposed to auto-oriented) layout and scale. Form-based codes focus on “place-making” rather than a uniform set of rights for each lot.
Most form-based zoning is derived from six landscapes along a community “transect,” which is an idealized model of good design, starting with the most dense neighborhoods and tapering off to the least dense at the edge of a typical city. Pendleton’s River Quarter Plan might comprise one or two landscapes along the transect. The form-based approach asserts that most built-up areas fit into one defined transect or another, and if you choose the one that is right for the density and function of the area, its regulations will produce a better development than standard Euclidean controls. Transects need to be “calibrated” for each code because forms and standards differ by community just as they do in Euclidean codes.
What is common to all form-based codes is that they require compliance with many more building shape and size parameters than Euclidean zoning. Where a traditional zoning ordinance might contain only five or six main parameters (setbacks, heights, lot coverage, etc.), a form-based code for the same area might contain 16 to 20 parameters, which are intended to ensure that developments really fit the local context. Form-based codes typically rely on a regulating plan (i.e., schematic master plan) and regulate more than building style and furnishings. They are graphically oriented, using more pictures than text to convey permitted development forms.
Form-based zoning’s advantages in communicating intended forms of development can also make it a relatively static tool. Unlike performance zoning, which can adjust to new trends in development, architecture, or technology, form-based zoning is more of a snapshot of what the community likes today. It represents an idea of what are desirable building designs based on current preferences.
Most communities that adopt form-based regulations do so either: (1) as an option to be used at the request of the property owner, usually the owner of a large piece of property than can be properly master planned; (2) as a mandatory code for a specific neighborhood or subarea with distinct character; or (3) they use some but not all elements of form-based zoning (e.g., a “hybrid” of Euclidean and form-based zoning), as Pendleton has done for its River Quarter Plan.
Based on the above considerations, the City has determined that a hybrid code combining elements of form-based regulations with the City’s existing base zones would be appropriate for Downtown Pendleton. The Downtown amendments should emphasize land use flexibility; historic preservation, including adaptive reuse and restoration; and new development on key redevelopment opportunity sites. For the most part, this is the same approach used in the River Quarter Overlay.