Smart growth news – August 25

Is this the world’s greenest neighborhood?
NRDC Switchboard, August 24, 2011
I am on vacation in Victoria, British Columbia, a wonderful city that – among other good things – is home to Dockside Green, which some people are calling the greenest development in the world.  At least with respect to new, highly urban developments-in-progress, they may have a case to make:  for starters, when NRDC, the US Green Building Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism first announced the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program to honor smart growth, the developers of Dockside Green made a point of being the program’s very first applicant.  It has since earned a platinum rating under LEED-ND.

A building spurt in Minneapolis
Star Tribune (Minn.), August 24, 2011
It’s been one of the worst years in history for home builders, but not in Minneapolis. The city expects to issue permits to build more than 1,500 new housing units — mostly rental apartments, according to the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department…It’s a boom that’s being fueled by the convergence of two trends: a return to city living and a growing preference for rental housing over homeownership.

City vision for downtown: better parks, urban rail, cheaper housing
The Statesman (Texas), August 24, 2011
Picture downtown Austin with spruced-up parks, urban rail, more tree-lined and wider sidewalks and moderately priced housing. Those are some of the ideas described in a $1.6 million master plan that the City Council may consider today . The plan lays out a vision for transforming downtown that would cost as much as $350 million to carry out over the next decade. It’s not clear where the money would come from, but the likely options are fees, bond elections or partnerships with private companies.

Planners’ dream: Adjoining neighborhoods
The Morning Call (Pa.), August 24, 2011
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has been railing against cul-de-sacs and calling for better traffic flow among subdivisions for decades, often with frustrating results as suburban sprawl continues apace. But now regional planners hope growing traffic congestion, higher energy prices and longer commutes will pressure developers to plan and build fewer dead-end streets, and persuade municipalities to impose stricter development controls.

Stepping it up
Boston Globe, August 25, 2011
Despite finishing tied for last in website’s walkability ratings, Franklin works to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly.

Town will seek ‘smart growth’ grants
Bennington Banner (Vt.), August 23, 2011
Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd told the Select Board Monday about the funds available in the Municipal Planning Grant program through the state Department of Housing and Community Development. He said projects that promote smart growth will be given priority. According to Hurd, the Planning Commission has suggested the town seek funding to develop an economic development plan. The plan would establish specific goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, according to Hurd.

Rochester Considers Land Use Future
The Wanderer (Mass.), August 23, 2011
How Rochester will shape its future development is a topic on the minds of Planning Board members, who are investigating the creation of a number of bylaws – with an eye towards encouraging mixed development in the town’s center and preserving Rochester’s agricultural heritage.

City seeks ideas for turning downtown’s Capitol Park district into a vibrant enclave
Detroit Free Press, August 25, 2011
The City of Detroit is seeking ideas from developers to remake the historic but dilapidated Capitol Park district on downtown’s west side into a vibrant live-work-play enclave. Specifically, the city is asking for proposals to redevelop three vacant commercial buildings that the city took control of in the recent past — 1145 Griswold, 1212 Griswold, and the Farwell Building at 1249 Griswold. The three buildings in total comprise more than 250,000 square feet of space.

Conservation key to accommodating growth
Houston Chronicle, August 24, 2011
In addition, there is an important urbanizing trend that has a lot to do with how much water we use. Many more people now want to move into “walkable” communities – places where everything from the dry cleaners to the local café are within walking distance. Houses in these communities have very little or no lawn at all. For that reason alone we should consider encouraging or incentivizing this kind of urban pattern as a primary matter of water-supply policy.

Central Oregon thinks regionally to attract large lot industrial employers
Daily Journal of Commerce (via TMC News), August 23, 2011
By bringing a data center to Prineville, Facebook hasn’t just helped the city; it’s been a boon to almost all of Central Oregon. And therein lies the problem, officials in Cook, Jefferson and Deschutes counties say. Facebook is the only one of its kind in the area and county officials say it’s time the large-lot industrial employer had company. Toward that goal, Deschutes County officials last week took the first step to implement a region-wide economic opportunities analysis that will help towns and cities in the county justify urban growth boundary expansions or zoning changes for industrial sites of more than 50 acres.

Legal Opinions Say Supposed Ban On Apartment Development Is Illegal
The Hartford Courant (Conn.), August 24, 2011
Critics of a mixed-use development planned for Brook Street have argued that for 25 years, local regulations have prohibited construction of new multifamily housing, except for senior citizens. Those arguments are invalid, according to a pair of legal opinions filed this month with the town planning office.

Environmental groups urge Scott to rethink highway plan
The Florida Independent, August 23, 2011
A coalition of environmental groups (including 100o Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida) have sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Transportation, outlining their concerns with the recently renewed Future Corridors Action Plan. The Future Corridors program aims to identify statewide transportation corridors that can be “significantly improved, transformed in function or design, or newly developed over the next 50 years.”