What is Smart Growth?
The term 'Smart Growth' refers to a development and planning philosophy designed to create and maintain attractive, convenient, safe and healthy communities. The 10 Smart Growth principles foster design that encourages choices for residents, workers, visitors, in where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around them.
THE 10 PRINCIPLES OF SMART GROWTH
Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
Providing quality housing for people of all income levels is an integral component in any smart growth strategy. Housing is a critical part of the way communities grow, because it constitutes a significant share of new construction and development. More importantly, however, housing availability is also a key factor in determining households' access to transportation, commuting patterns, access to services and education, and consumption of energy and other natural resources. By using smart growth approaches to create a wider range of housing choices, communities can mitigate the environmental costs of auto-dependent development, use their infrastructure resources more efficiently, ensure a better jobs-housing balance, and generate a strong foundation of support for neighborhood transit stops, commercial centers, and other services.
Create walkable neighborhoods
Walkable communities that are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play are a key component of smart growth. Their desirability comes from two factors. First, goods (such as housing, offices, and retail) and services (such as transportation, schools, libraries) are located within an easy and safe walk. Second, walkable communities make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and creating a streetscape for a range of users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers. To foster walkability, communities must mix land uses and build compactly, as well as ensure safe and inviting pedestrian corridors.
Take advantage of compact building design
Smart growth provides a means for communities to incorporate more-compact building design as an alternative to conventional, land-consumptive development. Compact building design suggests that communities be laid out in a way that preserves more open space, and that individual buildings make more efficient use of land and resources. For example, by encouraging buildings to grow vertically rather than horizontally, and by incorporating structured rather than surface parking, communities can reduce the footprint of new construction, and preserve more greenspace. This not only uses land efficiently, but it also protects more open land to absorb and filter rain water, reduce flooding and stormwater drainage needs, and lower the amount of pollution washing into our streams, rivers and lakes.
Foster distinctive communities with a sense of place
Smart growth encourages communities to craft a vision and set standards for development that respect community values of architectural beauty and distinctiveness, as well as expand choices in housing and transportation. Smart growth seeks to create interesting, unique communities that reflect the values and cultures of the people who reside there, and foster physical environments that support a more cohesive community fabric. Smart growth promotes development that uses natural and man-made boundaries and landmarks to define neighborhoods, towns, and regions. It encourages the construction and preservation of buildings that are assets to a community over time, not only because of the services provided within, but because of the unique contribution they make to the look and feel of a city.
Preserve open space, farmland and critical environments
"Open space" refers to natural areas that provide important community space, habitat for plants and animals, and recreational opportunities, as well as farm and ranch land (working lands), places of natural beauty, and critical environmental areas (e.g. wetlands). Open space preservation supports smart growth goals by bolstering local economies, preserving critical environmental areas, improving community quality of life, and guiding new growth into existing communities.
Mix land uses
Smart growth supports mixed land uses as a critical component of achieving better places to live. By putting residential, commercial and recreational uses in close proximity to one another, alternatives to driving, such as walking or biking, become viable. Mixed land uses also provide a more diverse and sizable population and commercial base for supporting viable public transit. Mixed use can enhance the vitality and perceived security of an area by increasing the number and activity of people on the street. It attracts pedestrians and helps revitalize community life by making streets, public spaces and pedestrian-oriented retail become places where people meet.
Direct development toward existing communities
Smart growth directs development towards existing communities already served by infrastructure, seeking to utilize the resources that existing neighborhoods offer, and conserve open space and irreplaceable natural resources on the urban fringe. Development in existing neighborhoods also represents an approach to growth that can be more cost-effective, and improves quality of life. By encouraging development in existing communities, communities benefit from a stronger tax base, closer proximity of a range of jobs and services, increased efficiency of already-developed land and infrastructure, reduced development pressure in edge areas (preserving more open space), and, in some cases, strengthening rural communities.
Provide a variety of transportation choices
Providing people with more choices in housing, shopping, communities, and transportation is a key aim of smart growth. Communities are seeking a wider range of transportation options in an effort to improve beleaguered current systems. Traffic congestion is worsening across the country. Communities are beginning to implement new approaches to transportation planning, such as better coordinating land use and transportation; increasing the availability of high-quality transit service; creating redundancy, resiliency and connectivity within their road networks; and ensuring connectivity between pedestrian, bike, transit, and road facilities.
Make development decisions predictable and fair
For a community to be successful in implementing smart growth, the concept must be embraced by the private sector. Only private capital markets can supply the large amounts of money needed to meet the growing demand for smart growth developments. If investors, bankers, developers, builders and others do not earn a profit, few smart growth projects will be built. Fortunately, government can help make smart growth more profitable for private investors and developers. Since the development industry is highly regulated, the value of property and the desirability of a place are affected by government investment in infrastructure and government regulation. Governments that make the right infrastructure and regulatory decisions will support fair, predictable and cost-effective smart growth.
Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration
Growth can create great places to live, work and play—if it responds to a community's own sense of how and where it wants to grow. Communities have different needs and will emphasize some smart growth principles over others: those with robust economic growth may need to improve housing choices; others that have suffered from disinvestment may emphasize infill development; newer communities with separated uses may be looking for the sense of place provided by mixed-use town centers; and still others with poor air quality may seek relief by offering transportation choices. The common thread, however, is that the needs of every community and the programs to address them are best defined by the people who live and work there.