This guidebook was created to provide information about form-based codes (FBCs) as an alternative to conventional zoning, to plan for code implementation, and to provide instructions on how communities can create and develop a form-based code. This guidebook simplifies FBCs and removes the mystique associated with them. Specific to Michigan (and the first of its kind anywhere in the nation), the guidebook is a step-by-step process that explains what communities need to know, helps them decide what to do, and leads them through the process of how a FBC is written, adopted, and implemented.
It is widely recognized that Michigan needs zoning reform. The built and natural environments demand it, and so do the demographics and markets. Zoning codes that have been adopted in the last 60 years strongly favor spread-out single-use development. This trend of minimum lot sizes, minimum building setbacks, parking requirements, street width standards, and restrictions that separate uses has led to sprawl in our state and across the country. Hardly anyone defends conventional codes anymore at professional conferences or in publications, yet they persist. Conventional zoning is very difficult to change because the status quo is so powerful. Zoning has made the public wary of new development because it continually produces low-quality development, and unfortunately, conventional zoning does not encourage walking or alternative forms of transportation or add to cultural, social, and entertainment offerings in a way that maximizes and improves the quality of life.