Are you a local elected official in a rural community and interested in smart growth strategies? If so, we want to hear from you.
Author: Elizabeth Schilling
Storms, floods, droughts, landslides, and wildfires have affected thousands of individuals, families, businesses, and communities across the United States in recent years.
In the immediate aftermath of disasters like these, state agencies play a crucial role in emergency response and recovery. However, states can also plan for long-term resilience and help communities build in more resilient ways.
Building Resilient States: A Framework for Agencies lays out seven key steps state administrations can take to become more resilient. Disaster preparedness professionals can use it to understand how decisions about land use and transportation can support their efforts to protect people, property, and infrastructure across their state.
We’ll be talking all about this new resource—as well as national best practices and how the states of Colorado, New York, and Vermont are using these strategies—during a kickoff panel discussion today at 1:00pm EDT. Register to join us for this free event.
During that event we’ll discuss this emerging field of practice and how some of the nation’s leading disaster preparedness agencies are using land use and transportation strategies to make their states more resilient.
It’s hurricane season here on the East Coast. Just this past weekend we braced for the worst with Hurricane Joaquin.
If you were like me, you might have stocked up on bottled water, flashlights, and batteries. Maybe you also thought that there must be more we can do to protect our communities from disaster — and to help them bounce back afterwards.
Better decisions at the state level can help communities withstand disasters and bounce back more quickly afterwards. Later this month, Smart Growth America will release a new resource designed to help states figure out how to do just that.
Building Resilient States: A Framework for Agencies will help state leaders integrate land use and transportation issues into their conversations about resilience. Disaster preparedness professionals can use it to understand how more strategic decisions can build communities that are more resilient from the ground up.
Photo: Saco, ME, Jasperado via Flickr.
Maintaining New England traditions is at the top of Saco, ME’s agenda. How can this small city maintain the physical, economic, and cultural assets that make it unique while also changing in ways that make it a desirable destination for tourists, homebuyers, businesses, and investors?
Saco recently wrapped up a future visioning process intended to answer these questions and guide future public investments and economic development initiatives. Mayor Don Pilon, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, explains that short Council terms (lasting just two years) were part of the impetus for the visioning process, known as Bridge 2025. “We all sit down and think through what we want to accomplish in the two years that we have,” Mayor Pilon explained, but there was rarely common vision for what should happen beyond that budget cycle. To establish that, Mayor Pilon deliberately stepped back and supported a process that put businesses, residents, and other stakeholders in the driver’s seat. “This had to be driven by the public,” he explained. “When we’re gone, this needs to be continued by the stakeholders. This is their product, not our product.”
Participants at the second annual Local Leaders Council Policy Forum on June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Aimee Custis.
Earlier this month, local leaders from across the country came together for the 2015 Local Leaders Council Policy Forum in Washington, DC. The over 30 speakers talked about a wide range of smart growth topics, including creating housing options, fighting blight, meeting the needs of new demographics, and walkable design.
In a few weeks, Northern Virginia’s first bus rapid transit service will begin operations on dedicated busways through Alexandria, VA’s burgeoning Potomac Yard neighborhood. A visitor standing under one of the new station awnings can see a string of cranes stretching from north to south along US Route 1, at work on the planned 3000 residential units, 4 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail space along the transit corridor. Alexandria City Councilor Tim Lovain, who championed the busway as an essential tool to support high-density growth in this corridor, smiles broadly as he describes the accomplishment, but is even more interested in the transit lines still under development in the city.
Many of these transit projects are included in the Transportation Master Plan Councilor Lovain helped adopt in 2008 during his first term on the Council. In addition to the Route 1 corridor, that plan identified two more high-priority corridors where bus rapid transit will be developed in anticipation of future streetcar lines. Both of those corridors are in the City’s newer West End, which is characterized by car-oriented, lower density development. West End neighborhoods are more difficult to serve with transit, but Councilor Lovain makes the case for it as an essential tool for economic survival in the transit-rich metropolitan Washington, DC region.
The first ever New Life for Closed Gas Stations conference begins Tuesday, June 3, in Orlando, Florida. Gas station sites may be small, but they pack a big redevelopment punch for the neighborhoods surrounding them.
The number of gas stations in the U.S. has declined every year since 2002, and there were 23% fewer places to buy gas in 2012 than there were in 1994. Typically in highly-visible locations along commercial corridors, these sites can be an asset for investors and local governments who want to make a big impression with limited redevelopment dollars. Prominent locations and interesting architecture have made old gas stations attractive to investors seeking a strong sense of place to anchor up-and-coming blocks.
Do you know the ten smart growth principles by heart? Me neither, but there’s one I never forget: Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration in Development Decisions.
Engaging community members in decisions about where, what, when and how to invest, build, and preserve is what makes smart growth smart. As basic as this principle is, though, it is not always easy to do. There is a learning curve for everyone involved in the development process and this is particularly true for brownfield sites—properties that are or are suspected to be contaminated by hazardous materials. Brownfields are some of the most complicated redevelopment projects and the more people and official processes that are involved in the process, the steeper the learning curve.
That’s why Smart Growth America is happy to release a new tool designed to help communities organize for effective public outreach. The Organizing to Promote Targeted Improvements in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs) Community Engagement Workbook is a series of seven worksheets with instructions designed to help community groups think about how to organize, what they need, and how to build a strategy to participate in the redevelopment process. Community groups can use these tools on their own, but they can be just as useful for local governments seeking working with partners in federally- and state-mandated community engagement programs.
The Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center in Clearwater, FL used to be a vacant gas station.
As cities and towns seek to improve conditions for economic development, a burgeoning trend is beginning to take hold in communities around the country. Forgoing the traditional methods of pursuing private investment, some communities are instead taking a ‘health-based’ approach – identifying basic community needs like access to health care, fresh food, and safe places to gather and play and prioritizing those investments to sustain a healthy neighborhood. When these priorities are incorporated into brownfield redevelopment, the result is known as a “Healthfield,” and the concept is gaining traction with planners, health professionals and environmental advocates around the country.
Smart Growth America became an official member of the national Source Water Collaborative on Monday during a celebration of the Collaborative’s seventh anniversary. SGA CEO Geoff Anderson joined National Association of Conservation Districts’ CEO John Larsen to become the 24th and 25th members of the Collaborative, which also includes national associations of water agencies and water utilities, federal agencies, and non-profit groups such as the Trust for Public Land and the River Network.
In his remarks, Anderson referred to the similarities between the national Smart Growth Network and the Collaborative. “The Source Water Collaborative creates an opportunity for us to work with critical partners to help local governments save money and protect resources for the long haul. Smart growth works at the federal, state and local level to help communities get out in front of environmental problems – whether from air and water pollution, flooding, or destruction of habitat and working lands.”