Michigan adopts complete streets legislation

by Gary Taylor

Michigan has adopted an amendment to its planning enabling legislation to incorporate complete streets policies into local comprehensive plans.  Plans should address “all components of a transportation system and their interconnectivity including streets and bridges, public transit, bicycle facilities, pedestrian ways, freight facilities and routes, port facilities, railroad facilities and airports to provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in a manner that is appropriate to the context of the community….”

Beginning January 1, 2016, the transportation element of a city, township or county comprehensive plan shall at a minimum address:

  • The level of service of all streets in the local street system and any recommended changes to the street system and/or levels of service,
  • The mechanism for assessing, preventing, and mitigating the traffic and other impacts of large, traffic-generating land uses that may be developed along existing or proposed major street corridors;
  • Major street corridor access management issues, proposed solutions to prevent traffic crashes and preserve street capacity, and proposed policies to prevent future traffic safety problems and to remediate existing problems;
  • Traffic noise along major street corridors, including proposed solutions and policies to limit noise;
    pedestrian and bicycle access and service issues along all streets, the potential for new or expanded pedestrian facilities and bicycle lanes and pathways, and appropriate recommendations for a complete streets policy, context sensitive design, traffic calming techniques, and walkability and bikeability policies.

A copy of the bill (H.B. 6152) can be found here.

EPA announces Smart Growth Achievement award winners

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced five winners of its 2010 National Smart Growth Achievement Awards.  The awards are intended to highlight projects and programs that showcase the “benefits of adopting an integrated approach where community development based on smart growth principles supports a healthy social and natural environment.”

2010 Award Winners:

* Overall Excellence – Smart.Growth@NYC: Policies and Programs for Improving Livability in New York City, New York, New York.

* Smart Growth and Green Building – Miller’s Court, Baltimore, Maryland.

* Programs, Policies, and Regulations – Making the Greatest Place: Metro’s Strategic Implementation of the 2040 Growth Concept, Portland, Oregon.

* Rural Smart Growth – Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan, Maine, Gateway 1 Communities.

* Civic Places – Mint Plaza, San Francisco, California.

The announcement and detailed descriptions of each project can be found here.

New York adopts Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Act

by Melanie Thwing

In September, the state of New York enacted the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Act.  This new act is intended to “maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits from public infrastructure development through minimizing unnecessary costs of sprawl development including environmental degradation, disinvestment in urban and suburban communities and loss of open space.” It requires thirteen named state agencies and “all other New York authorities” to prepare Smart Growth Impact Statements before authorizing, approving, undertaking, supporting or financing any public infrastructure project.  This not only applies to state-owned or state constructed facilities, but also to “publicly supported infrastructure,” such as roads, water supplies, sewers, water treatment plants, public housing, and public schools when the construction, expansion or redevelopment of the infrastructure requires authorization or subsidies from the state agency. 

The impact statement must show how the project is consistent with ten Smart Growth Criteria set forth in the bill, which are:

–  To advance projects for the use, maintenance or improvement of existing infrastructure;
–  To advance projects located in municipal centers;
–  To advance  projects in developed areas or areas designated for concentrated infill development in a municipally approved comprehensive land use plan,  local waterfront revitalization plan and/or    brownfield opportunity area plan;
–  To protect, preserve and enhance the state’s resources, including agricultural land, forests, surface and groundwater, air quality, recreation and open space, scenic areas, and significant historic and archeological resources;
–  To foster mixed land uses and compact development, downtown revitalization, brownfield  redevelopment, the enhancement of beauty in public spaces, the diversity and affordability of housing in proximity to places of employment, recreation and commercial development and the integration of all income and age groups;
–  To provide mobility through transportation choices including improved public transportation and reduced automobile dependency;
–  To coordinate between state and local government and intermunicipal and regional planning;
–  To participate in community based planning and collaboration;
–  To ensure predictability in building and land use codes; and
–  To promote sustainability by strengthening existing and creating new communities which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do not compromise the  needs of future generations, by among other means encouraging broad based public involvement in developing and implementing a community plan and ensuring the governance structure is adequate to sustain its implementation.

Each state agency is required to form a “Smart Growth Advisory Committee”  made up of agency staff.  The committee is responsible for preparing the impact statements and also advising the agency on how to further its goals for smart growth. 

For a link to this act click here.

Recent changes to Connecticut’s Smart Growth laws

by Allison Arends and Gary Taylor

In the last Connecticut legislative session HB 6467,  postponed the deadline for revising the State Plan for Conservation and Development (C&D plan) until March 1, 2011 which also postpones the deadline for recommending priority-funding areas. The bill also suspended the provision of the current law which states that municipalities must update conservation and development plans every 10 years or else they will be disqualified from discretionary state funds, allowing municipalities to wait until the state adopts the revised C&D plan so that local plans can be prepared to be consistent with the state plan.  Finally, the bill requires the Legislative Committee on State Planning and Development to study how the Office of Policy and Management: “(1) prepares the State plan of conservation and development and incorporates specified growth principles in it, (2) applies the plan and these principles to state agency actions, and (3) integrates the plan with municipal and regional plans of conservation and development.”  To better assist this process the bill defines “smart growth” as, “economic, social and environmental development that (A) promotes, through financial and other incentives, economic competitiveness in the state while preserving natural resources, and (B) utilizes a collaborative approach to planning, decision-making and evaluation between and among all levels of government and the communities and the constituents they serve.”

The bill also defines “Principles of smart growth” as “standards and objectives that encourage smart growth when used to guide actions and decisions, including standards and criteria for (A) integrated planning or investment that coordinates tax, transportation, housing, environmental and economic development policies at the state, regional and local level, (B) the reduction of reliance on the property tax by municipalities by creating efficiencies and coordination of services on the regional level while reducing interlocal competition for grand list growth, (C) the redevelopment of existing infrastructure and resources, including, but not limited to brownfields and historic places, (D) transportation choices that provide alternatives to automobiles, including rail, public transit, bikeways and walking, while reducing energy consumption, (E) the development or preservation of housing affordable to households of varying income in locations proximate to transportation or employment centers or locations compatible with smart growth, (F) concentrated, mixed-use, mixed income development proximate to transit nodes and civic, employment or cultural centers, and (G) the conservation and protection of natural resources by (i) preserving open space, water resources, farmland, environmentally sensitive areas and historic properties, and (ii) furthering energy efficiency.”

Smart Planning – Connecticut’s version

by Gary Taylor

As we look ahead to the possible implications of Iowa’s new Smart Planning legislation, we thought it might be helpful to take a scan of the country and review the activities in other states that have adopted their own versions of smart planning legislation.   Each state’s program is unique.  These reviews are not intended to predict how Smart Planning will take shape in Iowa. 

Connecticut was an early adopter of smart growth laws designed to organize state and local government activities around a set of core principles.  The following information comes from the Connecticut State Office of Policy and Management (OPM).

The Office of Responsible Growth, housed in OPM is required by state law to prepare a State Plan of Conservation and Development (C&D plan) on a recurring five-year cycle. The C&D plan serves as a statement of the development, resource management and public investment policies for the State.  The Plan is used as a framework for evaluating plans and proposals submitted to OPM for review through mandated review processes.

Specific requirements set forth in Section 16a-31 of the Connecticut General Statutes include the following:
1.   State agencies are directed to consider the C&D plan when they prepare agency plans.  In addition, agency prepared plans, when required by state or federal law, are to be submitted to the OPM for a review of conformity with the C&D plan.
2.   State agencies are required to be consistent with the C&D plan when undertaking the following actions:
    a)   The acquisition of real property when the acquisition costs are in excess of two hundred thousand dollars;
    b)   The development or improvement of real property when the development costs are in excess of two hundred thousand dollars;
    c)   The acquisition of public transportation equipment or facilities when the acquisition costs are in excess of two hundred thousand dollars; and
    d)   The authorization of any state grant for an amount in excess of two hundred thousand dollars for the acquisition, development, or improvement  of real property or for the acquisition of public transportation equipment or facilities.
3.   The Secretary of OPM submits to the State Bond Commission, prior to the allocation of any bond funds for any of the above actions, an advisory statement commenting on the extent to which such action conforms to the C&D plan.

The current C&D plan for 2005-2010 is comprised of two separate components – the Plan text and the Locational Guide Map (both downloadable here).  Both components include policies that guide the planning and decision-making processes of state government relative to:  (1) addressing human resource needs and development; (2) balancing economic growth with environmental protection and resource conservation concerns; and (3) coordinating the functional planning activities of state agencies to accomplish long-term effectiveness and economies in the expenditure of public funds.

The policies contained in the C&D plan text provide the context and direction for state agencies to implement their plans and actions in a manner consistent with the following six Growth Management Principles (GMPs):
1.  Redevelop and Revitalize Regional Centers and Areas with Existing or Currently Planned Physical Infrastructure
2.  Expand Housing Opportunities and Design Choices to Accommodate a Variety of Household Types and Needs
3.  Concentrate Development Around Transportation Nodes and Along Major Transportation Corridors to Support the Viability of Transportation Options
4.  Conserve and Restore the Natural Environment, Cultural and Historical Resources, and Traditional Rural Lands
5.  Protect and Ensure the Integrity of Environmental Assets Critical to Public Health and Safety
6.  Promote Integrated Planning Across all Levels of Government to Address Issues on a Statewide, Regional and Local Basis

Municipalities and Regional Planning Organizations must note any inconsistencies with the Growth Management Principles when developing their own plans of conservation and development.

The Locational Guide Map plays an important role in coordinating relevant state actions by providing a geographical interpretation of the state’s conservation and development policies.  The Map comprises the best available digital, standardized, statewide data for each policy’s definitional criteria. 

Development Area Policies (In order of priority)
1.  Regional Centers – Redevelop and revitalize the economic, social, and physical environment of the state’s traditional centers of industry and commerce.
2.  Neighborhood Conservations Areas – Promote infill development and redevelopment in areas that are at least 80% built up and have existing water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure to support such development.
3.  Growth Areas – Support staged urban-scale expansion in areas suitable for long-term economic growth that are currently less than 80% built up, but have existing or planned infrastructure to support future growth in the region.
4.   Rural Community Centers – Promote concentration of mixed-use development such as municipal facilities, employment, shopping, and residential uses within a village center setting.

Conservation Area Policies (In order of priority)
1.  Existing Preserved Open Space – Support the permanent protection of public and quasi-public land dedicated for open space purposes.
2.  Preservation Areas – Protect significant resource, heritage, recreation, and hazard-prone areas by avoiding structural development, except as directly consistent with the preservation value.
3.  Conservation Areas – Plan for the long-term management of lands that contribute to the state’s need for food, water and other resources and environmental quality by ensuring that any changes in use are compatible with the identified conservation value.
4.  Rural Lands – Protect the rural character of these areas by avoiding development forms and intensities that exceed on-site carrying capacity for water supply and sewage disposal, except where necessary to resolve localized public health concerns.

 Our next post will discuss changes made to Connecticut’s smart growth program in the most recent legislative session.

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