Awards for Community Development Code of Beaufort County

Charter Award of Merit for Beaufort County Multijurisdictional Form-Based Code / Land Development Code (Merit Award)

  • Firm: Opticos Design
  • Location: Beaufort County, South Carolina
  • Category: The Region:Metropolis, City, and Town

The Charter Awards are given annually to honor outstanding achievement in design and planning by the nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism, or CNU, a national group devoted to building walkable, sustainable neighborhoods. With more than 2,600 members working in communities across North America—from urban centers to historic small towns—CNU connects and empowers the professionals, leaders, advocates, and citizens creating places people love.

2015 Driehaus Form-Based Code Award

The Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award is presented annually by FBCI with the generous support of the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust. The award recognizes excellence in the writing and implementation of form-based codes. Award winners include codes for corridors, neighborhoods, entire cities and even regions. The winning codes provide good examples for communities to study and learn from in their own efforts to write codes.

Jurors of the 2015 Driehaus Award recognized the outstanding quality of the Beaufort County Community Development Code. The award was presented at the 23rd annual gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Dallas. The jury was impressed with how the code frames a county-wide range of place types, rural to urban, into a format that is easy to understand, nicely illustrated, and with rules appropriate for those places. They also appreciated the code’s strategy for transitioning the prior zoning rules, and that it accommodates small and large development by integrating subdivision standards. The code also offers excellent guidance for the design of future buildings through its documentation of existing structures, building type standards, and architectural standards. The coordinated re-zoning of two municipalities within the county was seen as an excellent strategy that serves as an example for counties and regional intergovernmental agencies.




  • 1999: In response to a decade of unprecedented growth, Beaufort County adopted the Zoning and Development Standards Ordinance (ZDSO) which provided much needed tools that promoted quality development; protected trees and wetlands; preserved rural areas; and required quality architecture and landscaping for new development. However, the ZDSO was often criticized for telling people what they could not do rather than providing a vision for growth in Beaufort County. The ZDSO also created an uneven regulatory environment across jurisdictional boundaries, leading to zoning shopping.
  • 2006 – 07: In response to rapid growth and municipal expansion, Beaufort County embarked on two regional plans with its municipalities. The Northern and Southern Regional Plans provided a blueprint for cooperative planning and a shared vision for future growth that transcended municipal boundaries.
  • May 2010: Beaufort County, in conjunction with the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal, engaged the services of Opticos Design, Inc., a California based planning firm that specializes in the development of form-based codes. The goal was the development of a multi-jurisdictional code with common language and zoning districts. The original cost of the code was $550,000 with $350,000 paid for by Beaufort County and $100,000 each paid for by the Town of Port Royal and the City of Beaufort.
  • October – December 2011: Opticos held a series of workshops, or charrettes, in eight neighborhoods across the County where it made the most sense to encourage walkable mixed-use development. The charrettes aided in refining the form-based zoning districts and in developing zoning maps for the new code.
  • February - November 2012: The first draft of the Community Development Code was completed. The Beaufort County Planning Department formed a Technical Advisory Committee made up of architects, landscape architects, and civil engineers to provide a “peer review” of the code.
  • February 2013 – February 2014: A second draft of the Community Development Code was completed. The County formed a Joint Review Committee made up of members of the Beaufort County Planning Commission and County Council to carefully go through the document. This process was very effective in securing buy-in from the two entities that would eventually review and approve the Code.
  • December 2014: Beaufort County Council adopted the Code on December 8, 2014. The Town of Port Royal adopted the Port Royal Town Code in 2014 as well. The City of Beaufort is still in the process of developing their code.

The Beaufort County Community Development Code is unique. There are very few examples of consistent zoning between counties and municipalities across the nation. Teton County, Wyoming and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are some examples. Beaufort County is unique, however, in using the Transect as the organizing principle for multi-jurisdictional zoning. The Community Development Code should serve as an example for other