Projects Form-Based Codes Small Towns

Port Royal Moves Forward with FBC Approval Process

The town council in Port Royal, SC, voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to the proposed Form-Based Code at its March 12 meeting. The Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission approved the proposal in December.

Opticos Design was commissioned to create a multijurisdictional Form-Based Code for Port Royal, the City of Beaufort, and Beaufort County, SC, in 2010. Over a two-year period, Opticos worked with the three jurisdictions to create a common coding platform that would implement walkable urbanism, help channel future growth toward existing urban areas, and protect the county’s rural character. The code included a shared framework of Transect zones and related standards that can be adapted to the needs of each community.

Port Royal staff worked carefully to tweak the coding framework to their specific needs and is the first of the three jurisdictions to move the new FBC toward adoption. Beaufort County is in the process of finalizing a public draft of their code, while the City of Beaufort is working locally with a citizen advisory committee.

Port Royal is no stranger to FBCs—one of the first FBCs in the country was applied to their town core over a decade ago. The new code will extend the Transect framework throughout the town, encouraging infill and sprawl repair in suburban neighborhoods and recalibrating standards in the town core to align with community intentions. Urban planner Brian Herrmann has served as an editor and advisor to the town’s Form-Based Code review team.

Although the code is not yet adopted, Planning Director Linda Bridges says she uses it daily to advise future proposals. While Bridges has been directing the FBC advisory committee to discuss certain zoning concerns that have arisen along the way, there is still a lot of work to be done before the Port Royal Town Council can approve the final draft of the FBC. Another meeting of the town council and a public hearing are still to be held. “We want to make sure we get it right, or as close to right as we possibly can, and not have to come back to it later,” said Mayor Sam Murray.

The decision to create a shared code framework was an unprecedented idea for the three jurisdictions that emerged from the Northern Beaufort County regional planning process a few years prior. When adopted, the code will apply to rural areas in the county, urban and suburban neighborhoods in the city and town, and even a National Historic Landmark District in central Beaufort.

Read more about the project in The Island Packet.

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