City of Asheville releases final draft to form-based code for River Arts District

Press release from The City of Asheville:

The form-based code for the River Arts District has been an ongoing City project over the past two years. City staff has worked with property and business owners, neighbors and the community to develop this set of new zoning districts that are tailored to the area. The final draft of the River Arts District Form Based Code has been released. You can view it here.

What is a form-based code?
Form Based Codes are a newer zoning tool that focuses on the form and placement of new structures on parcels instead of relying on a list of permitted uses. By emphasizing the building form, the character of the area is enhanced and protected because the buildings — with their defining features and their placement in relation to the street and sidewalk — create a strong neighborhood context.

Form-based code basics: River Arts District
The River Arts District Form Based Code is a redevelopment tool that divides the district into seven zoning types based on their location on the corridor and potential for a mix of development. The proposed zoning will support orderly investment and new, appropriate-scaled construction (while encouraging the retention of existing building) in the district.

Proposed zoning types:

Note: The form based code does not supersede Conditional Zoning which is approved by City Council.

Some highlights of changes to the draft code since the previous version:

● Buildings that are adjacent to neighborhoods are limited to 3 stories on Roberts Street and the side streets near Craven Street (note: residential zoning across the street counts as adjacent zoning).

● More flexible building placement requirements for areas north of the I-240 bridge. These properties have the railroad line in the front of the properties, and the river on the rear, so development may be oriented to the river instead of the road.

● A section of City-owned land on Ralph Street (behind the Green’s gas station) has been added to the residential zoning area. This land could accommodate a small amount of units that could help keep eyes on the area; however, this property is not a part of future park development planning.

● Adjustments to some setbacks, and floor elevation requirements (more flexible).


April 27: Release final draft of the code online. Community notification and mailing to property owners both within the district and nearby.

May 11: Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission Meeting [location, time] and vote on recommendation to Council

June 7: Planning and Zoning Commission Public Hearing, City Hall, 1st Floor Conference Room, 5:00 pm

July 25: City Council Public Hearing and potential adoption, City Hall, 5 pm


Read the final draft of the code at This page has posts from the beginning of the project, as well as links to documents, comments, etc. Information on form-based codes in general can be found at

Please contact project manager Sasha Vrtunski if you have questions, comments or concerns. She can be reached at or 828-259-5560.

Find a copy of this press release on Asheville City Source.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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