Consultants say form-based code would connect neighborhoods | Planning

A new type of zoning proposed to redesign Frederick’s East Street corridor would emphasize moving buildings closer to the street, creating inviting areas for pedestrians and providing connections between neighborhoods.

A switch to a so-called form-based code for the neighborhood would emphasize community input with public design sessions and other meetings in the early planning stages to hear what residents and other members of the public want.

The city will hold an informational meeting on the topic at 7 pm Tuesday at City Hall, as well as a five-day workshop in August to get feedback and ideas.

The approach relies on being able to translate the community’s vision into development regulations to guide growth and change in the area, Geoff Ferrell, an urbanist with Geoffrey Ferrell Associates in Washington, DC, told the mayor and aldermen at a workshop Wednesday.

“You can’t start a form-based code out of thin air,” Ferrell said.

Unlike traditional zoning’s heavy focus on how a property would be used, a form-based code tries to regulate development to create a particular type of place or urban environment.

“You start to get things built. And the more you build, the better it gets, ”Ferrell said.

Part of the approach is putting buildings along the street and parking behind, rather than having large parking lots between the street and a building, said Jason Beske, an urban designer with the firm Stantec.

Increasing walkability and connectivity between different neighborhoods and areas is also important, he said.

It helps create a more walkable urban environment that sends a signal to pedestrians “that this place is for you,” Beske said.

Walking to City Hall on Wednesday, he said, he saw a lot of great areas and wants to extend that into east Frederick.

Creating a vibrant area involves creating multiple uses and buildings within one block.

“The public realm is multilayered,” Beske said.

Using the new zoning approach to recreate East Street as an urban corridor with mixed-use development and various modes of transportation is expected to be transformational for the East Street area, Deputy Director of Planning Joe Adkins told the mayor and aldermen.

It will involve a wide variety of city departments, from the planning and legal departments to Parks and Recreation, Public Works, and others, he said.

Stretching from near Interstate 70 to an intersection with North Market Street near Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, East Street is a key north-south path for drivers on the east side of the city.

The city is working with a consultant, Kittelson & Associates, which has offices in Baltimore and Washington, to analyze the East Street corridor.

The consultant will look at options to redesign and redevelop the area, ranging from centering to more dense development around the MARC train station at East and South streets, and nearby areas to finding ways to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the street along the corridor.

Alderman Ben MacShane asked how to design the planning process to include a wide variety of people from the community.

One way to increase participation in the planning process is to invite organizations that advocate for less privileged communities, Beske said.

MacShane worried about what the changes in the neighborhood would mean for the neighborhood.

He said parts of East Street might not be “pretty,” but its buildings and shopping centers don’t have a lot of vacancies.

While it might not be new retail, “these are businesses, and they’re actively operating and providing people jobs,” he said.

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