Form Based Code Applications

Form Based Code (FBC) is an alternative zoning district for regulating development that helps realize a community’s vision for a specific area. Arlington County is using FBC to transform Columbia Pike into a walkable community anchored by a lively “main street,” lined with restaurants, businesses and attractive public spaces, while preserving housing options for residents with a mix of incomes. The revitalized Pike will accommodate more people and higher density development than it did before.

Application Types

Through extensive community-based processes, the Board adopted two FBCs that apply to development in commercial centers as well as the surrounding multi-family residential areas. They clearly define and illustrate requirements for building heights, building and parking placement, historic façades, windows, balconies and other architectural features, as well as standards for public sidewalks, street trees, parking and parks, civic greens and town squares. Affordable units and energy-efficient buildings are requirements of the Neighborhoods FBC.

The type of application you need to submit depends on whether  the development is a for a commercial center or a residential area:


How Form Based Code Works

While conventional zoning focuses on separating land uses – such as residential, commercial and industrial – it does little to encourage an integrated approach to development. Form Based Codes help regulate land development by setting careful and clear controls on building form, rather than focusing strictly on types of land use.

FBC typically allows for more density and provides an alternative to the regulations included in the existing commercial and multi-family zoning districts. It may also provide less intensive/expensive options than the Site Plan Review Process, should a property owner choose to request land use plan changes and rezoning and site plan applications. FBC also provides financial incentives as well as a faster and more streamlined approval process. More predictable outcomes are possible due to the form-driven zoning requirements. Altogether, both the community and the County benefit from managed growth and public improvements that are aligned with their collective vision for the future.


Similar to other corridors in Arlington, the Pike is targeted for denser development than what has been approved in the past. However, the community wanted something different than the high-rise developments that characterize the Rosslyn-Ballston and Richmond Highway corridors. Instead, the plans endorsed by community stakeholders call for mid-rise, mixed-use buildings with up to six stories along the Pike frontage and lower buildings to ease heights into the adjacent neighborhoods. Taller heights (up to 10-, 12- and 14-stories) are possible in the east and western ends of the Pike as allowed by the Neighborhoods FBC. Although FBC is optional, many developers have already opted to use it to complete new projects along Columbia Pike. In March 2017, County staff hosted a joint workshop as part of a periodic review of these projects built over the last 13 years. View the results.

By early 2020, the two FBCs will have delivered over 3,400 residential units, of which almost 800 of which are committed affordable units. Since the adoption of the first FBC in 2003 (commercial), redevelopment has delivered two grocers, a community center, 14,000 sq. ft. of office space, over 340,500 sq. ft. of retail, new streets, urban plazas and parks.


FBC Advisory Working Group

The FBC Advisory Working Group is comprised of community members, architects and representatives of the Planning Commission and Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO). They meet regularly with staff to review development proposals and proposed amendments to FBCs. This advisory group was created to ensure success with FBCs, to provide clear direction for implementing the vision and plan for Columbia Pike’s future.