Question and Answer

Big Picture

Q. Why are we doing this? Why don't we just use our current zoning?
A. Changes in demographics and conditions in the local and national markets for retail and office space as well as housing have caused the city to rethink what Metcalf Avenue means to the community. The Governing Body determined that a blueprint for the renaissance of the Metcalf corridor should be created. The Vision Metcalf plan was adopted to serve that purpose in April 2008. The plan proposes the adoption of a form-based code to implement the vision and begin revitalization efforts in the Metcalf corridor. A form-based code was chosen to implement and regulate the recommendations in the plan for its ability to focus on building form and public space.
Q. What is a Form-Based Code?
A. A Form-Based Code is a land development regulatory tool that places primary emphasis on the physical form of the built environment with the end goal of producing a particular type of "place". While conventional zoning strictly controls land-use, it is usually tied to abstract regulatory statistics which can result in very different physical environments. The base principal of form-based coding is that design is more important than use. Simple and clear graphic prescriptions for height, siting, and building elements are used to control future development. Land-use is not ignored, but regulated using broad parameters that can respond to market economics, while also prohibiting socially or environmentally undesirable uses.
Q. Will the new Form-Based Code delay the development approval process?
A. No, the Form-Based Code will actually streamline the development review process because it will provide clear parameters--based on the Vision Metcalf Plan. It will become easier to develop properties that follow the citizens' vision as expressed in the Vision Metcalf Plan and Form-Based Code.
Q. Does a form-based approach allow for amendments/variances/exceptions?
A. Yes, however, development within the parameters of the Form-Based Code will be preferred. The threshold/standard for variances and exceptions will be high, with the burden on the developer to prove that the alternative proposal meets the intent of the Code and Vision Metcalf Plan.
Q. When is this going to happen?
A. The drafting of a new Form-Based Code is just getting underway and will be framed directly by the input gathered from the steering committee, stakeholder groups, and at the October charrette. Approval of this Code will follow the regular city process for adopting new land use and development regulations. (The city hopes to have the final draft of the Form-Based Code adopted into city ordinance by spring of 2010.)
Q. When will the new Code take effect?
A. The intent is for the new Form-Based Code to be reviewed and adopted into the municipal ordinance on a short timeline. Once adopted, however, the Code will only "take effect" when individual property owners in the targeted areas choose to make significant changes to an existing building or redevelop their land.
Q. In what areas of Overland Park will a Form-Based Code be adopted?
A. Although the Vision Metcalf Plan envisions broad revitalization throughout the corridor the Governing Body has decided to focus on 3 primary target areas, including: Downtown Overland Park, the area adjacent to 95th Street and Antioch Road, and The area adjacent to 95th Street and Nall Road. Preliminary plans have been established for the 95th Street nodes and staff is in the process of developing a form-based code for downtown.
Q. Is someone going to take my land/house/property/business?
A. The city has no plans to condemn property under this change in land development regulations.
Q. Will this new Code reduce my property development rights/potential?
A. The expectation is that development potential for all properties in the target areas will actually increase under the Form-Based Code.
Q. Will I have to change my building/business, etc?
A. No. All existing buildings and businesses will be "grandfathered in" under the new Form-Based Code. The new regulations will only take effect if an individual owner chooses to redevelop.

More Specific/Technical

Q. What is a Regulating Plan?
A. A Regulating Plan is the key to the Form-Based Code. It provides specific information on the permitted development for each lot or parcel, particularly as the lots relate to the public spaces (streets, squares, parks, etc.) and surrounding properties. In some ways, it is comparable to a zoning map.
Q. What are Building Envelope Standards?
A. Building Envelope Standards (BES) are one component of the Form-Based Code. They regulate future building in three dimensions, with criteria for height, siting, building elements (such as windows, doors, balconies, etc.), and uses.
Q. What is a Required Building Line?
A. A Required Building Line (RBL) is the location on each property/parcel near the street right-of-way where building fronts are placed. It is used to develop a traditional main street or urban neighborhood with buildings that front sidewalks and help to create a pedestrian environment.
Q. How tall will the buildings be?
A. A Form-Based Code will typically provide both minimum and maximum building heights, which will vary in throughout the target areas. A range of appropriate heights - and many other elements - will largely be made by the citizens and stakeholders during the public input process. The Vision Metcalf Plan set the basis for initial input into building heights.
Q. Where will everyone park?
A. Parking can be provided throughout the District in a variety of ways, including on-street parking and structured parking, with a particular emphasis on creating shared and publicly available parking facilities rather than requiring each property to provide private parking on-site. The City's vision for the area is a pedestrian-oriented "park once" environment.
Q. How tightly can land uses be controlled in a form-based coding environment?
A. Land uses can be controlled as strictly in a form-based environment as in the conventional zoning system; however, in the target areas we have chosen to regulate primarily through the building form, while providing broader parameters for permitted uses (that will include specific prohibitions for undesirable or inappropriate uses for the target areas.) Other issues will be addressed through management and/or special use permits.
Q. Are there any examples where form-based codes have been successfully implemented?
A. Historically in the United States, many towns have regulated development through systems which are primarily form-based. (Two well-known examples are Chicago and Old Town Alexandria in Virginia.) More recently, form-based regulations have been used most frequently in developing new planned communities, but are increasing in popularity for existing cities, particularly those that encourage traditional infill redevelopment or are concerned about protecting/enhancing the existing form and character of the community (or a specific district.) Some of these locations are: Arlington, Virginia; Contra Costa County, California; Iowa City, Iowa; Hercules, California; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Woodford County, Kentucky.
Q. Will adoption of a form-based code require changing existing zoning?
A. Form-Based Codes can be adopted under a variety of scenarios, including changing/replacing the existing zoning, creating a special district, or an optional overlay district. In Overland Park, we anticipate that the Form-Based Code will become the new zoning.
Q. Can the form-based approach be applied citywide, particularly in existing residential neighborhoods with single-family residences?

The form-based coding approach can be applied at a citywide scale; however, the Form-Based Code should not be thought of as a "one-size-fits-all" document. Different parts of Overland Park have different character, play different roles, and function differently. Because a form-based code is created/written to result in the development (or maintenance) of a physical place, it is necessary to have a clear vision of that desired place to inform/produce the Code for each specific area (although clearly some base similarity would be expected between city neighborhoods and districts.)

Form-based codes are proving to be particularly adept at regulating new infill development in existing residential areas to respect the existing character/context and prevent new out-of-scale development.

Q. How does form-based coding mitigate conflicting noise, glare, etc. between different uses?
A. Many of the issues of conflict between adjacent uses are mitigated through regulating the building form (in 3 dimensions.) Simply put, many urban building types (multi-story, main street shopfronts, etc.) do not lend themselves to particular noxious uses. Additional issues, such as glare, are addressed through both the Building Envelope Standards and the Architectural Standards, where elements such as lighting and signage are regulated. Finally, items of concern that are not mitigated through the Code itself can be regulated/managed specifically through special use permits.



Q. If I am a single family homeowner and I want to build an addition, renovate, or rebuild my home what can I do?
A. Repairs, remodeling, and additions can be made to single family homes no matter which building frontage requirement they are subject to. This includes the ability for home owners to rebuild a new single family home if they choose.
Q. If I own an office or commercial building and I want to build an addition, renovate, or rebuild my building what can I do?
A. Uses other than single family residential will have certain thresholds for adherence to the form-based code. Building additions up to 10 percent of the square footage of the existing building will be required to conform to the architectural standards of the code (Part 6). Building additions between 10 percent and 50 percent of the existing structure will be required to conform to the architectural standards and site design standards (Part 4) of the code. Building additions or renovations beyond 50 percent of the square footage of the existing building, or valued above 75 percent of the Johnson County appraised value shall be made in conformance with the code. Additionally, rebuilding a structure will require conformance with the code.
Q. Can I continue to use my building the same way?
A. A building that contains a non-conforming use will be allowed to continue operating and will be considered to be a grandfathered use. The use may be extended throughout any portion of a completed building that was initially designed or arranged to accommodate such use. A non-conforming use may not be extended to additional buildings or to land outside the original building.
Q. Will the downtown rezoning and form-based code protect historic properties?
A. The code is not established to protect historic properties. Certain historic structures are designated as Civic Use Buildings, which allows exemption from the codes building envelope standards, but they are not preserved by the code. It is recommended that building/property owners or stakeholders pursue protection through National, State, or local historic designation avenues.
Q. If my building is destroyed by fire or an act of God do I have to rebuild to the requirements of the form-based code?
A. Single family and duplex homeowners will not be required to build to the requirements of the code. As the code stands, all other structures would be required to build to the code if destroyed by an act of God. Staff will propose an amendment to the form-based code that allows all structures destroyed by an act of God to rebuild to a one-story minimum height, but will otherwise be required to meet the remaining requirements of the code.
Q. Is the City of Overland Park proposing any development for downtown and/or will my home or business be purchased for any development?
A. The code and rezoning are established to allow future development to occur by private developers. The city is not proposing any development, nor is the city in the process to acquire property for future development.
Q. Will property owners that have lots that are not built upon, but are designated as Townhouse/Small Apartment building frontage have the ability to build a single family home?
A. City staff is working on a code amendment that will allow property owners that have vacant lots designated as Townhouse/Small Apartment building frontage, but were otherwise platted for single family development, to build a single family home on the property subject to architectural and site design standards.
Q. Are the optional streets on the regulating plan map part of the rezoning? When will the new streets ever be built?
A. The optional streets are a part of the rezoning. If a developer chooses to use the optional street as part of a development, the associated building frontage typology and street typology from the form-based code would apply. It is difficult to ascertain when any new streets will be built, if at all. Optional streets may or may not be built and any future streets will be built as they are needed to support downtown development.
Q. I currently live in a single family home on the edge of downtown. If general urban or storefront building frontage is proposed adjacent to my home will I potentially have a very tall building next door?
A. The code includes requirements for General Urban buildings to step down in close proximity to single family homes; this section is labeled Neighborhood Manners. Where a General Urban or General Storefront site is adjacent to a single family detached residential lot the buildings will only be allowed to have a maximum height of 30 feet within 50 feet of the single family lot line. There are additional height requirements that city staff would be happy to discuss.
Q. Will I be notified of any development proposals or construction activity?
A. The code is organized to streamline the development process and to proactively determine and make design decisions at the time of the code development and adoption; similar to how the city's planned zoning process works. As the code stands, surrounding property owners will not be notified regarding future development proposals. The only notification of surrounding property owners will occur if there is a rezoning proposal.
Q. Will there be any impact on my property value or property taxes?
A. The city does not appraise or set property values in any regard. Please contact the Johnson County Appraiser's office with any specific questions related to property values or taxes. To reach the appraiser's office, please visit or call 913-915-7000.