Form Based Code FAQ
Why do we have a Form Based Code?
The Columbia Pike Form Based Code was written to make building the community’s vision easy to do and easy to understand. Developers understand what the community wants and the community gets what it wants.
What is the Columbia Pike Form Based Code?
The Columbia Pike Form Based Code is a very specific set of guidelines that indicates where buildings should be built (e.g. main-street buildings should line the sidewalk as in Old Town), how tall they should be, where doors and windows ought to be, of what materials buildings should be built and the mix of uses allowed in the building.
What does the Form Based Code codify?
Starting in January, 1998, the Columbia Pike community worked with Arlington County, national experts, the development community and lots of interested folks to create a vision for the future. The Form Based Code, which is now chapter 20 in the Arlington County Zoning ordinance, is the result of that effort and the “legal definition” of the vision.
Is the Form Based Code hard to understand?
The Columbia Pike Form Based Code is written plainly with graphics and illustrations to make it easy for anyone to understand. Go to our homepage, click on Form Based Code in the upper right corner and you’ll get to a primer on the Code. Click on the Columbia Pike Form Based Code link in the primer and you’ll be sent to the actual code on the County’s website.
Where does the Form Based Code apply?
The Form Based Code applies to the four Columbia Pike Revitalization Districts. They are Town Center (S. Courthouse Rd. to S. Oakland St.), Village Center (George Mason intersection), Neighborhood Center (S. Wakefield St. to S. Fredrick St.), and the Western Gateway (S. Greenbrier to the Arlington County line).
How do the Form Based Code and the Arlington County Site Plan process differ?
The Columbia Pike Form Based Code is community designed and driven. The community planned the Pike it wanted. We then wrote that clear vision into the County Zoning Ordinance. The Site Plan process is developer driven. A developer has an idea for a building and tries to get it built the way he or she wants it. The community is involved after the fact and can only react to someone else’s idea of how a place should be built.
How do neighborhoods participate in the Form Based Code process?
Neighborhoods participate in two ways. The first was the actual work of creating the Form Based Code. Over 200 community meetings went into the production of the Code. The second way neighborhoods participate is in working with Arlington County staff to review new projects and ensure they abide by the code.
Has the community lost control of its future?
The Columbia Pike community has actually taken charge of its future. While many communities will ask or hope for someone to come and make their place better without defining what better is, the Pike community studied, talked and planned for a very specific future. The Pike community wants a place where work, play, shopping, dining and entertainment are easy to get to on foot. The community said it wanted a place to go to rather than drive through. The Code embodies that vision and ensures development will serve that vision.
How does approval work?
For properties under 40,000 square feet, the developer submits plans to the Form Based Code administrator who convenes a review committee. The committee checks the project to ensure it conforms to the code. In this case the process takes about 30 days. For larger properties the developer again submits plans to the administrator who convenes presentations for the neighborhoods, the County Planning Commission and the County Board. Again, these meetings are for the purpose of demonstrating that the project abides by the Form Based Code. Projects don’t get to either of these processes without adhering to the Code.
Who is on the review committee?
In addition to County staff, “Up to two civic association representatives, who will be identified from each adjacent neighborhood, will participate in any administrative review affecting their neighborhood” according to page 52 of The Columbia Pike Special Revitalization District Form Based Code.
Why does it work that way?
The Form Based Code is very specific. Rather than designing a project through a committee process, the code, as developed by the community, provides specific direction for height, location, appearance and use. The standards are fundamental and easy for both residents and developers to understand.
Is the Form Based Code carved in stone?
The Code is not carved in stone. However, it is a specific articulation of the community’s long range vision, walk-able streets, a mixture of uses with buildings that put eyes on the street. In order for the vision to become reality the Code should be given a chance to work.
Is the Form Based Code the only way to develop on Columbia Pike?
The Form Based Code is one of three options for development on the Pike. The others are By-Right which has been used to build most of what is on Columbia Pike and Site-Plan examples of which include the Bank of America building at Glebe Rd. and Columbia Pike and the 2200 Columbia Pike apartment building.
Will we recreate the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor here on Columbia Pike?
The community clearly stated it didn’t want the height of Ballston, Virginia Square, Rosslyn, Courthouse or even Clarendon. Buildings on Columbia Pike can range from as low as about 36 feet to as high as 94 feet. At the maximum height, buildings will still be significantly lower than the existing AT&T building on Walter Reed Dr. When any new building is near a residential property, the building can’t exceed 32 feet in height to the eaves or parapet.
Can developers build whatever they want?
If developers want to build whatever they want, they can apply through the Site Plan process. There the timeline can be lengthy and the process can get quite expensive. Also, there is no guarantee the project will get approved. If the developer wants to build what the community wants, i.e. Form Based Code, the process is predictable and the County will help expedite the process.
How big will Form Based Code development be?
How big projects will be depends on how big a property is and where in a district it’s located. The Code is simple enough for owners of small properties to develop on their own. On Columbia Pike buildings can be no taller than 94 feet. Only one property can exceed that height, 5500 Columbia Pike because it is surrounded by high rise buildings. In the eastern part of the Neighborhood Center, buildings can be no taller than four stories.
What should buildings be made of?
These materials are permitted by the code:
Brick and masonry
Stucco (cementitious finish)
Native stone (or synthetic equivalent)
Pre-cast masonry (for trim and cornice elements only)
Metal (for beams, lintels, trim elements and ornamentation only)
Split-faced block (only for piers, foundation walls and chimneys)
Wood lap siding
Hardie-Plank equivalent or better siding
How will we handle parking in Form Based Code developments?
Through re-investment of the new tax revenues generated by development, the County is negotiating with developers to build additional shared public parking in their projects. This will allow folks to park their cars in one place and take care of errands, do business or enjoy entertainment up and down the Pike without moving their cars.
What style of architecture does the Form Based Code require?
When it comes to architectural style the Form Based Code has none. This is in keeping with the community’s wish to “keep the Pike funky.” Rather than focusing on Colonial revival, English Tudor, Mediterranean or such, the code concentrates on good materials, putting doors and windows on buildings and putting those buildings in the right place.
Is the code working?
For decades new development on the Pike has meant drive-thru stores, banks and restaurants. Since the code was adopted in February, 2003 nearly $500 million in Form Based Code designed projects have either been approved, are in the approval process or will going through soon. The projects are mixed-use and range in size from 16 townhouses to a 269 unit condominium with 40,000 square feet of retail space and close to 500 underground parking spaces.
How much disruption will development cause?
Building usually runs 18 to 24 months from the first shovel turn to the first key turn. Builders will have to abide by Arlington County standards for construction time and noise. They must also abide by the standards for protecting the Chesapeake watershed. Existing businesses will close or move. Arlington County and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization are developing a relocation assistance kit for the businesses.
Will Giant be bigger?
Giant Foods is eager to bring a store large enough to offer its full product range to Columbia Pike. Their preferred size is over 50,000 square feet.
Where can I read the Form Based Code?
Simply click here.