City of Sarasota’s draft form-based code available for members of the public to review

Document and map comparing current and proposed standards to be addressed during April 5 workshop at City Hall

The draft form-based code for the City of Sarasota divides the city into five sub-areas. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The final draft of the City of Sarasota’s form-based code and preliminary Straight Translation Analysis Map were released, as promised, on March 9, and made available to the public for review.

A Community Introductory Workshop on the code is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, in the Commission Chambers at City Hall in downtown Sarasota, the city has announced. City Hall is located at 1565 First St.

Through the 2017-18 fiscal year, the city has allocated $1,354,861 to the project, Jan Thornburg, the city’s senior communications manager, told The Sarasota News Leader in early February. The process began in the 2013-14 fiscal year, she noted.

“The Form-Based Code is intended to foster predictable building patterns within designated transects, also known as zone districts,” a March 12 city news release explains. “The Straight Translation Analysis Map depicts the equivalency between existing zoning lot metrics and the new transects,” the release adds.

One of the primary goals of the new code, the 354-page document says, is to “[p]rovide a development review process that is comprehensive, consistent, and efficient in the implementation of the Sarasota City Plan (“Comprehensive Plan”) and other goals, policies and standards of the City.”

The document provides this chart showing the proposed transect zones and use standards. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The overview explains, “The Code is designed to achieve a more positive and sustainable outcome for development, to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors, to enhance property values, and to improve the overall integration of the City within the region. It does so through [an] adopted series of ordinances that combine minimum and maximum specifications” with standards for site layout, building design and the appearance of streets.

“While it provides predictability in the urban form it also provides for flexibility among compatible uses,” the overview continues. “This is meant to allow developers and the City to respond to both existing and changing market demands while enhancing the quality of life for current residents and future generations.”

A graphic shows how transects can progress from rural to urban. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

One key facet of the proposed code — as noted by Karin Murphy, the city consultant who has worked on it — is its use of transects. The overview also explains that the term “transect,” which refers to a “geographical cross-section of nature,” originated in the 18th century. Such cross sections were used to “map and analyze different ecological environments that showed distinctive characteristics through different zones, such as ocean shores, dunes, wetlands, plains, and uplands or mountains,” the overview adds. “Human beings also live in various places such as metropolitan areas, cities, suburbs, towns and farms,” the overview continues. “The form-based code transect zones apply the principles of the natural transect to the built environment to describe … environments that can be arranged from the most natural to the most urban,” the overview points out.

The Central Subarea includes these parts of the city. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The proposed code also divides the city into five geographical sub-areas: Central, North, East, South and West; that action intended to define the areas “that are physically different in character, topography, and historical settlement patterns,”
the draft explains. When a sub-area standard is applied to a particular property, the draft says, that “shall take precedence over the transect zones metrics, uses or other regulations of [the code].”

The document also notes that the regulations will apply “to all new development — from subdivisions to “[a]ny use or change in the use or intensity of use of any structure or any change in the intensity of use of land.” It further points out that existing buildings and uses that do not conform to the provisions of the code “may continue as originally permitted. However, if a prohibited use ceases for 24 consecutive months, the use shall not be reestablished.”

Nonetheless, the code allows for one extension for an extra 12 months, “provided the property owner applies for the extension at least 60 days prior to the end of the original 24-month period.”

The draft form-based code includes these among its building rules for tall structures. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

To review the proposed code and map, visit They are working drafts created “following extensive neighborhood meetings, community open houses, walking audits, and intense review by City staff members from a cross section of departments,” the news release explains.

A number of workshops have been planned over the remainder of the year, as the City Commission works toward adopting the code. The process is scheduled to conclude in the fall, with public hearings before the city Planning Board and City Commission.

A section in the draft compares setbacks for the Downtown Core (left) and Downtown Bayfront transect zones. Image courtesy City of Sarasota