Sunday, May 27, 2012


A two lane rural road is made safer by adding a bike lane.
It's no secret that my vision for Amberley is a community that is not only accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, but also a community where the places we go to meet our friends, shop, and relax over a glass of wine, are right here in our own neighborhood. To that end, I have been attending sessions devoted to the concept of "Complete Streets" and "Form Based Codes" given by the Hamilton County Planning Partnership and the City of Cincinnati. Briefly, Form Based Codes require a community to decide what they want their built community to look like. Mixed use is more desirable than, say, platting a zone to be either strictly residential or strictly business. Parking lots are not determined by square footage of office or store, but by accessibility and how best to encourage shoppers to enter the facility. In the City of Cincinnati, the focus is on revitalizing and re-imagining neighborhoods that have been built over the years in conformance with out-of-date zoning codes and in deference to the automobile. Streets have become too wide and speed limits too fast to encourage drivers to slow down, stop, and get out of their cars to shop. Giant offices, warehouses, and high rise apartments have been built in once historic and unique neighborhoods with no consideration to the overall look and feel of the neighborhood. In Amberley, many of our neighborhoods are isolated platted subdivisions offering only one way in and out, with no easy access to main roads other than by car.  Under Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls leadership, the City of Cincinnati is trying to change the look and feel of its neighborhoods with the adoption of Form Based Codes in place of traditional zoning.

Last week, I attended a seminar at the Cincinnati Bar Association focusing on Local Government law. Topics included zoning and fair housing, but most interesting to me was that one of the topics was Form Based Codes. I asked Vice Mayor Qualls specifically about Amberley Village and Amberley Green in particular. Could Form Based Codes be used to plan a large, currently undeveloped property? In fact, we are in an ideal position to be proactive in terms of what we want the Amberley of the future to be and look like. An Amberley resident and fellow attorney sitting in front of me turned around and said, "I want three restaurants, a bar, and an ice cream parlour." This resident is a young mom and is representative of what young families want -- walkablity and complete streets. An opinion piece in today's New York Times confirmed that this is the trend throughout the country. Previously, home values in strictly suburban communities like Amberley have been higher than urban counterparts. But the trend has shifted dramatically, around the country and in Amberley Village.   According to Rick Hall, president of Hall Planning & Engineering, complete streets which include access to transportation options and safe, walkable convenient communities are happier communities. The time is now, when the need for new revenue is of paramount importance,  for Amberley to be thinking about and planning for the future of Amberley Green and Amberley Village.

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