Form Based Zones and Standards for the South District

South District Map

On October 5, 2021, the City Council adopted an amendment to the South District Plan that creates new goals, policies, and land use designations that align with form-based principles.

On November 16, 2021, the City Council adopted an amendment to the zoning code to create new form-based zones and standards. This amendment also included changes to Title 14 and Title 15 to ensure consistency with the new form-based zones.

Here are the links to the adopted amendments, as well as the recently amended South District Plan.

Project Background:

The City worked with the consulting firm Opticos Design Inc on establishing form-based zoning regulations for an area in the South District of Iowa City.

This planning project builds on and is an extension of previous planning work in the community:

  • South District Plan: Adopted in 2015, the South District Plan outlines the vision for this area. Over the course of many months, staff worked with the community on the development of this vision.
  • Project Direction Report and Form-based Code Analysis: Most recently, representatives of Opticos Design Inc and City staff worked with the community to assess the feasibility of implementing a form-based code for undeveloped areas in the South District. Completed in August 2017, the project direction report includes a summary of interviews with stakeholders, a community workshop, and the results of a visual preference exercise.

Project Description:

The project focused on the creation of a new zoning code that will regulate future development projects. Zoning is the main tool to implement the City’s comprehensive plan, including the South District Plan. Zoning provides the rules for how land can be used and developed. It outlines what structures can be built and where and how they will be used. Conventional zoning dictates the number of dwelling units allowed, maximum heights, lot coverage, and minimum on-site parking.

The City worked with Opticos to develop form-based zoning regulations, which is different than the conventional approach to zoning. Form-based zoning focuses less on land use (e.g. commercial v. residential) and more on the scale (e.g. bulk and height) of the development and its relationship to the street and the public realm.

Project Goals:

  • Neighborhoods that are safe for pedestrians and encourage walking
  • Preservation of important environmental resources
  • A connected network of streets and paths
  • Allowance of a variety of housing types
  • Ability to apply these regulations to other areas of the city

Important Documents:

  1. Project Direction Report & Form-based Code Analysis
  2. Presentation on Initial Draft Form-Based Zones and Standards
  3. Presentation on Draft Regulating Plan

Market Study Documents

Grant Program

South District Form-Based Code Grant application (see document for eligibility).

Other Resources:

  • Opticos Design Inc
  • Missing Middle Housing
    • Coined by the founder of Opticos Design, Daniel Parolek, Missing Middle Housing refers to “house-scaled building with multiple units in walkable neighborhoods.”
  • Coding Tools: Document produced by Opticos Design Inc that provides an overview of zoning and introduces form-based codes.

Staff Contact:

Anne Russett, Senior Planner