Form-Based Codes in Troy

In April 2011, Troy, MI adopted a new zoning ordinance, its first new full ordinance since the 1960s.  Carlisle/Wortman Associates was retained to partner with the City to develop a progressive new approach to local land use regulation designed to build on Troy’s assets and empower areas of opportunity to transform in line with the City’s 2008 Master Plan, an innovative document also developed by Carlisle/Wortman Associates.Troy’s former zoning relied on strict land use separation to ensure compatible land use relationships.  However, an unintended consequence of this approach was that the places people want to visit, live in, or work in are separated by great distances.  In many areas, more compact, mixed-use development is therefore a desirable option.  As a result, the City has placed a greater emphasis on regulating urban form over land use in many cases. This shift in focus is what makes this ordinance revolutionary for a large, affluent post-war suburb such as Troy.  Form-based codes, like those adopted for Big Beaver Road, Maple Road, and the Troy Neighborhood Nodes, will help create a more predictable physical outcome from development to ensure that new projects contribute in a meaningful, complementary, and lasting way.Troy’s Form-based code regulations are based on two main factors:  site context and building form.  Site context is derived from existing and desired characteristics of the area where these regulations are applied.  Areas are distinguished from one another by their size and configuration, street patterns, location, and intensity of use.  Site context requires a customized approach to each project. Building form addresses the manner in which buildings and structures relate to their lots, to other buildings, and to the street.  Building form standards control height, placement, building configuration, parking location, and other design factors.  Use regulations in these districts are more open than in conventional districts, permitting a wide variety of uses by right.  Troy’s form-based regulations will:

  •  Ensure that development is of human scale, primarily pedestrian-oriented and designed to create attractive streetscapes and pedestrian spaces.
  • Promote infill development and redevelopment to expand the employment and economic base.
  • Promote mixed-use development horizontally and vertically.
  • Ensure reasonable transition between higher intensity development and adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Improve mobility options and reduce the need for on-site parking by encouraging alternative transportation.