Strategies for a Resilient Community
Cities throughout the country have learned the pitfalls of poor planning and short-sighted decision making. In response, “best practices” have arisen and are promoted under the term “Smart Growth.” These practices result in vibrant, fiscally sound, and attractive cities that attract businesses and tourists.
The organizations linked below provide the most up-to-date strategies for Smart Growth and are worth exploring for both ideas and cost/benefit considerations.
Calculate the Cost of Growth
Development generates more than just tax revenue; it also creates cost liabilities. What is the long-term cost of providing services to a development many years after a developer has moved on? How will this affect the budget in 30 or 40 years and what can be done to offset future costs?
For example, rapid sprawl with large housing developments often pays dividends in the short term and the generated tax revenue is often used to pay for infrastructure projects and repairs elsewhere in a city. However, residential neighborhoods are known for consuming more tax revenue than they generate. Therefore it is important to ask: How will the region pay for the new growth’s infrastructure maintenance in 30 years?
This is why municipalities will benefit from a long-range view when advancing developments: to ensure that they are financially feasible without contributing to a “Growth Ponzi Scheme.”
Update Zoning Codes
“Form-Based Codes” and “Smart Codes” are approaches to zoning that may be beneficial to some cities. The key insight about form-based codes is how they create a pattern of development where neighborhood growth is positive for the people already living there. Since all form-based growth builds on the existing pattern of the neighborhood, new development is not a threat to the current order but instead, by definition, enhances it.
Ultimately, a quality development code is aligned with local values and enhances the quality of life. Not all development codes achieve this, which is why master plans should be followed by zoning and ordinance updates.
Increase Open Space Requirements
Parkland and Green Space requirements ensure that open space is maintained in sync with the population of a community so that, as developments are introduced, pressure on existing parkland is offset with open space provided by new development.
Additional value is provided when new open spaces are accessible to all citizens, not simply surrounded by a new development and essentially walled off to the rest of the community.
In order to achieve a high park score in any community, it is best to implement new open space requirements as soon as possible.
Impact Fee for New Developments
New developments can also be asked to pay impact fees that reflect the increased use of public resources, including parks and recreation facilities. Otherwise, increased development can over utilize existing resources and increase maintenance costs. Impact fees will help to maintain a high quality of life and prevent strain on municipal budgets.
The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is an overlay to the International Construction Code and provides a comprehensive set of requirements intended to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the natural environment. It is a document that can be readily used by manufacturers, design professionals, and contractors; but what sets it apart in the world of green building is that it was created with the intent to be administered by code officials and adopted by governmental units at any level as a tool to drive green building beyond the market segment that has been transformed by voluntary rating systems. (via Whole Building Design Guide)
The State of Texas currently has laws that limit the adoption of this construction code overlay, much to the state’s own detriment: resulting in water and energy waste that may harm both citizens and the natural environment.