Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes

Across the country, local governments are searching for ways to create vibrant communities that attract jobs, foster economic development, and are attractive places for people to live, work, and play. But many are discovering that their own land development codes and ordinances often get in the way of achieving these goals, and they may not have the resources or expertise to make the specific regulatory changes that will create more sustainable communities.

To respond to this need, EPA's Smart Growth Program convened a panel of national smart growth code experts to identify the topics in local zoning codes that are essential to creating the building blocks of smart growth. This document, Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes, presents the panel's initial work. It is an evolving document, one that will be regularly revised, added to, and updated, and is intended to spark a larger conversation about the tools and information local governments need to revise their land development regulations.

The document explores 11 "Essential Fixes"; addressing the most common barriers local governments face in implementing smart growth. Topics include mixing land uses, fixing parking requirements, modernizing street standards, managing stormwater, and adopting smart annexation policies, among others. Each Essential Fix describes the problem or barrier and the actions that the community could take to overcome that barrier. These actions are organized as modest adjustments, major modifications, or wholesale changes to give communities options based on their political will, financial resources, and organizational capacity. Communities can apply parts of fixes or multiple fixes or entirely overhaul their codes.

This tool does not include model language, nor is it intended to provide model codes or ordinances (click here to find some specific examples of codes that support smart growth development). The information here, however, can help communities evaluate their existing codes and ordinances and apply the information to create more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable communities. This document focuses primarily on barriers in suburban and urban communities. Similar issues regarding rural development will be addressed in a subsequent document that is planned for release in January 2010.

We intend to continually revise, update, and expand the information provided here. Please send comments, feedback, or suggestions to the EPA project manager, Kevin Nelson, AICP, at or 202-566-2835.