Congratulations to the City of Pequot Lakes for their adoption of a form-based code for their downtown. City officials spent a lot of time studying the elements of their town that give it that unique look and feel, then we coded for more of the same. Now future development in the downtown of Pequot Lakes will build on the existing sense-of-place and complement the current development pattern in what is becoming one of Central Minnesota's great destinations.

For those not familiar with a form-based code, it differs from a standard zoning approach in some fundamental ways. 

  • Instead of coding for what you don't want, you code for what you do want. This makes the review and approval process quicker and easier and the outcomes much more desirable.
  • It primarily regulates the form of development, not the use. Current codes typically address how a structure is used (re: an office building) and completely ignores the form (it could be a large, obnoxious office building in a small neighborhood or a trailer-type office in an upscale area - no problem so long as it is an office). Form-based codes focus on how the physical structures address the public space - how they scale and fit with the surrounding neighborhood - and leaves the use to the owner. Liberating.
  • Form-based codes are short and simple to understand, as opposed to standard zoning that involves pages and pages of text. The Pequot code replaces a dozen pages of text with just two.

Quick approvals. Development that complements the look and feel of the town. Simple to understand. What a breathe of fresh air. Thank you, Pequot Lakes.

You can read a copy of their recent amendment here and you can email me at if you would like to be notified when our Model Code for Strong Towns is released later this year.