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Posted on: June 17, 2019

Mayor Brown Announces The City of Buffalo’s Innovative Green Code Has Won a National Award

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Buffalo, NY Mayor Byron W. Brown today announced the City of Buffalo’s innovative Green Code has been awarded the 2019 Richard H. Driehaus Form-Based Code Award. The annual award honors communities for the development, adoption, and implementation of the most exemplary form-based codes in the United States.


Zoning codes are the driving force behind what gets built and where—they are the regulatory framework for how our communities look, feel, and grow. In recent years, many cities like Buffalo are coming to terms with antiquated zoning codes that impose auto-centric, use-based requirements that degrade community fabric, encourage sprawl, separate people from the services they need and want, limit housing options, and segregate people based on income, race, or ethnicity.


Form-based codes can be a better way for cities to mitigate sprawl and incorporate smart growth practices to foster mixed-use, walkable development that preserves local character, while accommodating new investment.


“Through the Buffalo Green Code we are able to further promote private and public sector investment, facilitate job creation, restore the environment and continue to improve Buffalo’s quality of life for residents,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “This document represents the best ideas, creates more modern development standards, and preserves and builds upon Buffalo’s strengths as a diverse and inclusive 21st Century city that can compete head-to-head with any city in this country, while being a place of opportunity for all.”


“This award reflects the effort of individuals throughout City Hall, our partners in government, and the community that shared their knowledge and time to create a code that reflects the values of our citizens and establishes Buffalo as a leader in this field,” said Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director, City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning.


George Proakis, chair of FBCI’s 2019 Driehaus Award Jury, announced the winners a June 15, 2019 award ceremony.


 “The code legalizes existing desirable but non-compliant development and replaces cumbersome parking requirements with an innovative transportation demand management system. City staff deserve significant credit for their persistent effort to achieve the difficult balance of developing an exemplary code that is also politically acceptable in a complex urban community,” Proakis said.


The Buffalo Green Code, which was approved by the Buffalo Common Council and signed into law in January 2016, reflects a tremendous amount of public input on the City of Buffalo’s blueprint for zoning and development in the 21st Century.

Some of the highlights of the Green Code gleaned from the public sessions include the following:

In residential zones, new provisions restrict the size and density of multi-family projects.

  • The maximum building height, applying to mixed-use commercial corridors like Elmwood Avenue, Grant Street, and High Street, is reduced from five stories to three stories.
  • Five story buildings will be allowed only along commercial corridors like on Niagara, Main, and Delaware, which are served by high-quality public transit.
  •  In open space zones, the maximum building occupancy has been reduced from 25% of lot area to 10% of lot area.
  • New provisions create special development standards for Elmwood Village.
  • The maximum size of a commercial establishment is reduced from 10,000 square feet to 3,500 square feet on the ground floor and 7,000 square feet overall.
  • To control the community's concern about large-scale redevelopment, a new provision allows only up to two lots to be combined for new construction.


Buffalo joins Lafayette Downtown Code of Lafayette, Louisiana as this year’s awardees. The Canton Village Districts Code of Canton, Connecticut was an honorable mention. The Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award is awarded by FBCI with the generous support of the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust.


The Buffalo Green Code is available at www.buffalony.gov/1224/Using-the-Unified-Development-Ordinance.


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