What is Smart Growth?

What is Smart Growth? 

Adapted from Smart Growth Online


Smart growth is a better way to build and maintain our towns and cities. Smart growth means building urban, suburban and rural communities with housing and transportation choices near jobs, shops and schools. This approach supports local economies, protects the environment, and preserves farmland, forests, and open spaces

Mix land uses.

By putting residential, commercial, and recreational uses in close proximity to one another, alternatives to driving, such as walking or biking, become viable.  Mixed use attracts pedestrians and helps revitalize community life by making streets, public spaces, and pedestrian-oriented retail become places where people meet.


Take advantage of compact building design.

Compact building design suggests that communities be laid out in a way that preserves more open space, and that individual buildings make more efficient use of land and resources.  Well-designed communities support wider transportation choices and provide cost savings to localities.


Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.

By using smart growth approaches to create a wider range of housing choices, communities can mitigate the environmental costs of auto-dependent development, use their infrastructure resources more efficiently, ensure a betters jobs-housing balance, and generate a strong foundation of support for neighborhood transit stops, commercial centers, and other services.


Create walkable neighborhoods.

Walkable communities provide goods and services within an easy and safe walk, and make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options and creating a streetscape for a range of users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers.


Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.

Smart growth encourages communities to craft a vision and set standards for development that respect community values of architectural beauty and distinctiveness, as well as expand choices in housing and transportation.

Libby Hill Park


Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.

Open space preservation supports smart growth goals by bolstering local economies, preserving critical environmental areas, improving community quality of life, and guiding new growth into existing communities.




Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities.

By encouraging development in existing communities, communities benefit from a stronger tax base, closer proximity of a range of jobs and services, increased efficiency of already-developed land and infrastructure, reduced development pressure in edge areas (preserving more open space), and strengthening rural communities.


Provide a variety of transportation choices.

Traffic congestion is worsening across the country, and in response, communities are beginning to couple a multi-modal approach to transportation with supportive development patterns, to create a variety of transportation options.


Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective.

For smart growth to flourish, state and local governments need to make development decisions about smart growth more timely, cost-effective, and predictable for developers.  By creating a supportive environment for development of innovative, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use projects, government can provide smart growth leadership for the private sector.


Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

The needs of every community and the programs to address them are best defined by the people who live and work there.  Involving the community early and often in the planning process vastly improves public support for smart growth and often leads to innovative strategies that fir the unique needs of a particular community.

River City Saunter 2013


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