Buffalo views code reform as economic development
The lake-belt city, having lost more than half its population since the middle of the last century, seeks to make development easier and better.
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Buffalo, New York, a city of 261,000, is working on becoming the third major municipality — after Miami and Denver — to adopt a citywide, mandatory, form-based code.
“We haven’t generated 100 percent consensus on every issue, but there is enough consensus for the project overall,” says Chuck Banas, an activist who has been working on code reform in the city for six years — going back to a SmartCode conference that was held with 125 stakeholders in 2006.
There’s solid political support for the city’s Green Code, which is nearing completion and is expected to be approved and implemented within a year, he says. The Lake Erie city has not rewritten its zoning code since 1953, and it currently requires developers to jump through many bureaucratic hoops, often with multiple variances and in the face of opposition because the outcomes are not good. Planning committee members conduct hearings on even the smallest projects, effectively micromanaging the real estate economy. All sides — developers, public officials, and citizens — regard the current zoning as broken. “The absence of commitment to the current system was one of the greatest assets in reforming the code,” says Chris Hawley with the Buffalo’s office of