Form based code approved for downtown Fort Smith development

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 614 views 

An ordinance amending the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) to include a form based code that will replace the existing zoning districts in the majority of the city’s Central Business Improvement District has been approved by the Fort Smith Board of Directors.

Implementation of a form based code was a key recommendation of the Propelling Downtown Forward Master Plan adopted in 2017 by the city of Fort Smith. The primary purpose of the Fort Smith Downtown Form Based Code “is to facilitate the development and redevelopment of downtown,” said a memo from Maggie Rice, director of development services, on the issue.

Key benefits of the FBC include: facilitates the appropriate reuse and rehabilitation of buildings; enables new infill development; advances development and promotes sustainable land use patterns; encourages pedestrian activity and supports an attractive community, Rice said.

The CBID recommended approval of the code Nov. 17. The planning commission voted in favor of the ordinance. The Board approved the measure Tuesday night (Feb. 2).

A form-based code “regulates development that controls building form first, and building use second, with the purpose of achieving a particular type of ‘place’ or built environment based on a community vision. The main purpose of the FBC is to create inviting and comfortable public spaces, including streets, sidewalks, plazas, public squares and other places where people gather outdoors,” the city’s website states.

The code divides the downtown area into six zones:
• Garrison
The area encompasses the historic building fabric and infrastructure of Garrison Avenue Historic District and includes the Towson corridor from Garrison Avenue to D Street.

• Cisterna
This area is a commercial and transition area that acts as a gateway into the downtown.

• Civic/Medical
This area is anchored by larger building formats that include civic and medical buildings.

• Warehouse and Industrial
This form is located in two different areas in downtown – the area bisected by the Wheeler Avenue corridor and the area between the Riverfront and the neighborhood north of North B Street.

• Riverfront
This area is anchored by the U.S. Marshals Museum.

• Neighborhood
This area is largely the residential area north of Garrison Avenue and east of the Arkansas River.

The code allows degrees of development based on the zone and accommodates areas ranging from historic preservation to urban design. Each zone will have different guidelines for land uses, building types and heights, parking location, etc. The code would grandfather in current property owners, allowing existing uses or structures to continue as they are, the city website states.

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