Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Land-use and transportation planning should be open, ethical and inclusive of many members of any given community. I hope that our community can progress beyond conventional land-use regulations to achieve the kind of conservation gains experienced by other municipalities who have implemented “Growing Greener”, “Smart-Growth” and “Conservation Development” principles.

Conservation begins with an understanding of the significance of the natural world and our dependence upon it to sustain human life.

The critical elements of a community’s “green infrastructure” are just as important as the conventional “gray infrastructure” of pipes, wires and roads.
Recognizing the enormous advantage of conservation development design approaches, local officials are amending zoning to allow the same number of houses that would have fit onto the land under a conventional build-out to be located on 1/3 the property, protecting the remaining areas to be permanently preserved open spaces and natural areas.

Mixed-use urban infill redevelopment must be included in every “Comprehensive Plan” to promote sustainable economic growth without continued geographic expansion.

Sustainable development designs are essentially local in their impacts, but the cumulative, positive effect of many such projects will ultimately produce community-wide and regional benefits over the long term.

We challenge planners and developers to incorporate the tools of the landscape architect and the conservation biologist, which have generally been neglected, to plan an interconnected system of protected lands across our communities. We ask our planners to work closely with conservation professionals, water quality experts and wildlife officials to produce a more balanced pattern of conservation and development. The current imbalance is related directly to the fact that conventional zoning ordinances are unimaginative and land-hogging without any significant conservation components, except for the unbuildable wetlands, floodplains, and steep slopes. Zoning laws throughout the US are based on the same original source: the Zoning Enabling Act passed in 1926 by Congress, as proposed by Herbert Hoover. The US cannot continue this explosive increase in land consumption relative to population growth.

Sound planning policies will be essential to conserve and protect our community’s natural and cultural heritage. Only when a community identifies its resources in a Comprehensive Plan can new growth respect the integrity of the community’s history and culture.

Briefly stated, the technique of conservation development is to outline the unbuildable areas, followed by the open spaces to be permanently protected first and to let its size and location become the central organizing element for the rest of the design, with roads planned last. We disagree with a future of the systematic conversion of every acre of buildable land into a developed use. Pennsylvania has a minimum 50% requirement for open space on buildable land where conservation development design has become a basic requirement.

Guilford County might want to request consults by Dr. Bill Holman with Duke’s Nicholas Institute, currently working in collaboration with UNC School of Government on the future of water in NC (engineering the use of storm water as a resource in new plans) and Southern Environmental Law Center attorney, David Farren, who worked with the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments on air quality non-attainment in the Triad. The SELC booklet “Clean Air for the Triad Action Agenda” would be an excellent reference, as well as the American Planning Association’s Planning Policy for Climate Change that was released in April 2008.

Greening Guilford is exciting news!!

Cathy Poole
Coalition of Concerned Citizens of the Triad

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