North Bend City Council Approves Form-Based Code for Downtown Commercial Zone

On Tuesday, June 1st, the City Council unanimously approved the adoption of Form-Based Code (FBC) to guide development in the City’s Downtown Commercial (DC) Zone, which encompasses approximately 20 blocks in the downtown area.

[Read more about form-based code here]

The more traditional North Bend Municipal Code (NBMC) that had previously guided development in the City’s Downtown Commercial Zone focused on segregated uses and density. The new Form-Based Code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and high-quality public spaces (sidewalks, plazas, etc.) by using physical form, rather than separation of uses, as its organizing principle. Compared to traditional zoning, FBC emphasizes community character and the impact development has on the public realm.

FBC emphasizes the relationship between buildings and public spaces, as well as the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another. With an emphasis on public spaces, the form-based approach is optimal for creating and sustaining places where people want to be, which will enhance the economic vitality of the City’s downtown area.

As more aging downtown buildings are re-developed, Form-Based Code – with less emphasis on density and allowable uses – will provide a unified development ordinance to attain the desired character for the Downtown Commercial Zone and ensure any new development is in scale and character with the existing DC area.

Community survey results citing the importance of Mt. Si views, walkability and open spaces helped guide the development of the new Form-Based Code. Other FBC guiding resources included the North Bend Comprehensive Plan, City Design Standards, City branding and the Downtown Master Plan.

Form-Based Code does not change maximum allowable building heights for the Downtown Commercial zone. The changes are focused on building setbacks to provide new plaza areas, additional streetscape and expanded sidewalks to enhance the pedestrian experience and encourage underneath/ground parking areas for new buildings.

The City’s change to Form Base Code was funded by a Washington State Department of Commerce grant designed to increase affordable housing by providing more flexibility as older downtown buildings are redeveloped in the future.

North Bend Community and Economic Development Director Rebecca Deming explained, “The City chose to go with Form-Based Code for downtown in the hope that it will create opportunities for future economic development as a social, cultural and entertainment destination. By focusing on the built environment, we are requiring future development to take on the appropriate character of the existing area and to facilitate a lively pedestrian environment.”

Form-Based Code becomes effective on June 16, 2021, at which time the City will launch a new FBC website page with additional details about the new code, Regulating Plan and FAQs.

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  • The biggest impediment to North Bend’s downtown ever becoming an appealing destination for visitors is the fact that too many of its premium shop sites, or room for parking, or for a green-space that could serve as the town center, along with a gazebo, is wasted on two blocks-worth of a car dealership! I’ve never, ever seen a town with a car dealership right in the middle of its prime business district! Tax benefits or not, a two-block-long, new and used car lot is not very attractive! North Bend should have offered the Chevy dealership considerable tax (and other) incentives to relocate to the outskirts of town, where car dealerships normally are located. I can only assume that when the dealership went in, its current location was at the outskirts of town, which (sadly) doesn’t say much for North Bend!
    If those two blocks were given over to parking (pleasantly landscaped) it would be a huge boon to our local shops. I know that I would shop downtown more often, if I didn’t have to risk my (or someone else’s) life, trying to parallel park on North Bend Way, with traffic backing up into the intersection!
    Note: Even if they put a traffic circle in at Bendigo, traffic will still back up into it, as people try to squeeze into those few spots in front if the shops they wish to patronize.
    Thanks for your time in reading this!

  • Living Snoqualmie