The sun sets over Tollgate Rock in Green River, WY. Photo by Jonathan Percy, via Flickr.
When a small town has big plans for changing its development patterns, how does it put them into action? From fixing restrictive codes to working with the real estate community—what are the first steps to smart growth?
On August 27 and 28, 2014, officials and residents from Green River, WY met with representatives from Smart Growth America for an expert-led workshop focused on implementing the ambitious vision of the new Green River Comprehensive Master Plan. Provided as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program, the two-day event was designed to provide the City with tools to modernize its development codes so that they encourage the types of growth outlined in the plan’s vision.
The Green River Comprehensive Master Plan was adopted in January 2013 after a year-long public input process. The plan lays out the community’s long-term vision and serves as a blueprint for future growth and investment within the city and surrounding areas. For the implementation process, Green River leaders sought technical assistance from Smart Growth America to begin the process of bringing the City’s development codes into better alignment with the master plan’s principles. The resulting two-day workshop helped Green River identify high-priority code fixes to promote infill development and redevelopment, preserve and revitalize existing neighborhoods, and promote orderly development in suitable outlying areas.
The first day of the workshop consisted of an open-to-the-public presentation on the principles of small town smart growth and how local development codes impact growth patterns. Attendees included members of the planning commission and board of zoning appeals, local mayoral and city council candidates, and representatives from the Green River real estate community.
For a more action-oriented discussion of high-priority code fixes and implementation-ready strategies, the workshop’s second day assembled a targeted working group including representatives from the planning commission (who were also local business owners) and Urban Renewal Agency, the acting city administrator, staff from the Planning, Parks and Public Works Departments, representatives of the real estate community and chamber of commerce, and the planning director of Sweetwater County.
Green River was one of 18 communities selected by Smart Growth America in January 2014 to participate in the third year of its free technical assistance program. Stretching from New Hampshire to California, the communities selected represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike.
The program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Three other nonprofit organizations—Forterra, Global Green USA and Project for Public Spaces—also received competitively awarded grants under this program to help communities get the kinds of development they want.