Miami to Scrap Its Zoning Code

The City of Miami, FL is about to embark on a multi-year comprehensive planning process that will include a complete rewrite of its zoning code:

The goal is a simple ”form-based” zoning code that clearly and concisely delineates where intensive development is appropriate and where it isn’t, and outlines how buildings should be shaped to ensure attractive, people-friendly streets. Miami would be the first major U.S. city to adopt such a code. It will be written by the Miami firm of AndrÃ?s Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, co-founders of the New Urbanist movement, which seeks to revive the principles of traditional town planning — denser, compact development and walkable streets — as an alternative to auto-dependent urban sprawl.

This attempt to replace an outdated, complex, and convoluted zoning code with something more simple and streamlined can be seen as a step in the right direction, to the extent that it can expedite and add greater certainty to the development process and remove obstacles to development innovation and neighborhood evolution. However, the benefits from a form-based planning approach will be inversely proportional to the extent to which land use is micromanaged and specific outcomes (particularly design elements) are dictated. See here for more on this topic. For those of us that advocate market-oriented planning approaches, it is important to make a distinction between “new urbanism” and the control-minded “smart growth” movement that it typically gets confused with. Free marketers generally have no objection to new urbanist design principles per say; the objection comes when NU design is promulgated through highly prescriptive and coercive policy mechanisms. For more on this, check out this Practice of New Urbanism listserve discussion on the relationship between Libertarian and New Urbanist ideals; participants include Reason’s own Sam Staley and NU guru Andres Duany, who will be leading Miami’s zoning code rewrite. Also check out this piece by Reason’s Chris Fiscelli, which lays the groundwork for a market-oriented new urbanism. (hat tip: