Spotlight on Sustainability: South Central Kansas plans for a sustainable future

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Historically, local jurisdictions in South Central Kansas often competed against each other for jobs and economic growth. But thanks to a Regional Planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they can now focus on working together on collective vision for their future development, instead of competing with one another.

Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is the population and economic center of the South Central Kansas region; a region that includes Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. In February 2012, the region’s council of governments, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), received a three year, $1.5 million grant from HUD to create a long-term regional plan for ensuring the health and productivity of the local economy – a plan now known as the South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.

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Vice Mayor Gant: Environmental initiatives making Edmonston, MD more attractive

Edmonston Green Street

Tracy Gant, Vice Mayor for the Edmonston, MD, is using environmental initiatives to make her community stand out. “We are using green technology to attract residents to Edmonston, and also to let people know about Edmonston,” says Vice Mayor Gant, who is the Vice Chair for the Advisory Board of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The Town of Edmonston, an historically working class town of 1,400 residents, sits on a branch of the Anacostia River in Prince George’s County, just two and a half miles from Washington, DC. “Edmonston is a great little town. We are a beautifully diverse community that can meet any need. The city is a just a couple of minutes away, but come within Edmonston and it is like you are walking into beautiful countryside,” says the Vice Mayor.

Local Leaders Council

Mayor Gee Williams on why Berlin, MD is the coolest small town in America

berlin-mdDowntown Berlin, MD is a National Register Historic District. Photo courtesy of Berlin Main Street.

In February, Berlin, MD (population 4,500) won the title of “Coolest Small Town in America” from Budget Travel. Mayor Gee Williams sees smart growth as part of why Berlin won the honor.

“We are proud of our 19th century charm, but we are a 21st century community,” explains Mayor Williams, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Berlin’s historic downtown is a National Register Historic District, boasting 47 structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local Leaders Council

Local Leaders Council members share insights at the 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth conference

St. Louis, MO Council President Lewis Reed, Smart Growth America's Neha Bhatt, Columbia, MO Councilmember Barbara Hoppe, Queen Anne's County, MD Commissioner David Dunmyer and Las Cruces, NM Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas participate in a panel discussion at the New Partners for Smart Growth conferenceFrom left: St. Louis, MO Council President Lewis Reed, Smart Growth America’s Neha Bhatt, Columbia, MO Councilmember Barbara Hoppe, Queen Anne’s County, MD Commissioner David Dunmyer and Las Cruces, NM Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas participate in a panel discussion at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered in Denver, CO last week to share their smart growth experiences and ideas at the 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth conference. Over the course of the three-day event, Council members brought their unique perspective to the smart growth development discussion.

“Eight to ten people working really hard can go far in mobilizing a community,” said Councilmember Barbara Hoppe of Columbia, MO, expressing one of the core themes of the conference—the power of public engagement. 

Local Leaders Council

Councilmember Jenny Brekhus on refocusing a post-recession Reno, NV for stronger growth

renoDowntown Reno, Nevada. Photo by Kim Olson via Flickr.

In the early 2000’s, Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the country and cities like Reno saw an unprecedented, rapid boom in residential and commercial development.

Seemingly just as quickly, however, the recession hit and in short time foreclosure rates were soaring. The rest is a story all too familiar to communities across the country that, like Reno, are still struggling to recover from the resulting decline in property values and the decline in municipal revenues that goes with them.

“Neighborhoods were in decline before they even had time to grow up and be built,” says Reno Councilmember Jenny Brekhus, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “At the same time, our city amassed a lot of debt.” Exacerbating Reno’s compromised ability to provide vital city services, the city lacked clearly defined municipal boundaries. As the city sprawled, the cost of infrastructure and services like water, sewer and emergency response grew.

Local Leaders Council

EPA recognizes Dubuque, IA and Mayor Roy Buol among top smart growth projects of 2013

Dubuque, IA's Millwork DistrictFormerly vacant factories in Dubuque’s Millwork District will include affordable housing units, retail space for small businesses, and a variety of art, social and civic spaces. Photo by “turn off your computer and go outside,” via Flickr.

Congratulations to Dubuque, IA, one of seven communities chosen to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies’s annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement this year. Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council and played an instrumental leadership role in Dubuque’s award-winning project.

The award recognizes exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, enhance quality of life, and provide new opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

Local Leaders Council

Local leaders, regional teams gather in Salt Lake City to talk smart growth implementation

LLC in Salt Lake CityFrom left: Mayor Tom Beehan, Councilmember Edmund Ford Jr., Councilmember Charles Landreth, Mayor Ruth Randleman, Council President Lewis Reed, and County Board Member Chris Zimmerman.

Elected officials, urban planners and municipal staff from ten regions across the country met in Salt Lake City, UT this week to learn and strategize about the implementation of major regional planning and sustainability projects funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program.

Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, opened the three-day event by speaking about how regional planning has benefited his city. “If you look at what’s happening in our downtown or with our transit system; if you look at the University of Utah and how it catalyzes economic growth; or if you look at our growing diversity, it is clear that in this community there is a common sense of purpose for who we are, what we want to be, and how we’re going to get there.”

Local Leaders Council

Calvin Mercer on linking natural assets in Greenville, NC

The South Tar River Greenway in Greenville, NC.
The South Tar River Greenway in Greenville, NC. Photo by Mark A. Neal via Flickr.

Calvin Mercer, At-Large City Councilmember in Greenville, NC and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is a champion for active living, recreation and broader community awareness of smart growth.

Mercer has served on Greenville’s City Council since 2007 and stresses walkability, bike paths and greenways and parks as important components of what he calls “quality growth.” Greenville is home to an extensive greenway network, and though its inception predates Mercer’s elected leadership, he views it as a vital part of Greenville’s continued pursuit toward quality growth. Since 1991 the city has added 4.5 miles to the greenway system, which consists of multi-use paths and repaired or added sidewalks.

Local Leaders Council

Jeremy Madsen on using urban growth boundaries to direct development and protect open lands

Jeremy Madsen, Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance, California’s San Francisco Bay Area land conservation and urban planning organization, talks about urban growth boundaries. By adopting a line beyond municipal services cannot extend, cities and counties can protect open space and agricultural lands and promote growth where they want it to occur. See more interviews with … Continued

Local Leaders Council