How-to workshops help small towns implement smart growth strategies

A new series of free workshops on smart growth development are catching the attention of policy makers and community leaders across the country.

The set of 12 workshops, run by Smart Growth America and several partner organizations, are designed to show local leaders how smart growth strategies can support a local economy and protect the environment while preserving the character of a town and making it more attractive to visitors or new residents.

The one or two-day workshops address a number of smart growth topics, including how to create pedestrian-friendly streets, the benefits of regional planning, innovative parking policies, and zoning changes that benefit small cities. “Transportation Performance Measurement,” for instance, empowers citizens and elected leaders to look at the roads, transit systems, walkways and bike lanes in their area as tools for achieving their objectives for economic vitality, public health, environmental protection and neighborhood character – in addition to the classic transportation objectives of access, circulation and travel.

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Smart Growth America's Leadership Institute hosts infill policy workshop in Billings, Montana

Last week, Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute convened a two-day-long “Introduction to Infill” workshop in Billings, Montana. Infill is a development strategy that uses land within an already built-up area for further construction, focusing on reusing and repositioning obsolete or underutilized buildings and sites.

Together with the City of Billings, the Billings Association of Realtors, the Billings Home Builders Association, Healthy By Design, the Montana Association of Planners, Cole Law Firm, the Western Central Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the workshop offered expert perspectives on infill development to the community in preparation for the City’s goal of developing an Infill Policy. This type of development is essential to renewing blighted neighborhoods and knitting them back together with more prosperous communities.

More than 80 participants from Montana and North Dakota attended the two-day workshop on April 26 and 27 in Billings. The workshop provided an overview of the state-of-the-practice, as well as the application of infill policies to specific issues – economic development, transportation, private sector involvement, and examples of infill development in Billings and around the country. Local perspectives were also provided through several sessions comprised of local developers, consultants, City staff and other organizations.

The workshop was designed to start the process of developing an infill policy for the City of Billings. A portion of the workshop was devoted to discussing the basic elements of an infill policy and beginning to define infill for Billings. A working group will be formed from the workshop attendees and others in the community in the coming months to develop a draft infill policy to present to the City Council for consideration in late 2011 or early 2012.

More information about the workshop, including the days’ agenda, workshop session descriptions and presentations are available at the City of Billings’ website. If you would like to know more about Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute’s workshops and seminars, visit https://smartgrowthamerica.org/leadership-institute or email leadershipinstitute [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.

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