Four Ways to Build a Resilient City Through Zoning and Urban Development

March 11, 2024
By Nate Sparks, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

In the last several years, the federal government has passed many programs that provide funding for projects and communities who incorporate sustainability and resiliency. Cities across the country are looking for ways to integrate these concepts into their community planning, not only because they are important and meaningful ideas, but doing so can open their community up to additional funding. Here are some tips to get started for community leaders that are interested in becoming a more sustainable community.

Establish Community Goals in the Comprehensive Plan

What does being a sustainable community mean? Do your residents want to encourage alternative energy sources? Are they concerned about stormwater management? There are many different forms that this can take.  It is important that you have an established community vision. Adding a chapter into your city’s Comprehensive Plan is the ideal approach to take. Setting a big picture vision helps to establish what ordinance changes you pursue.

Prioritize Stormwater Management

The intrusion of improper elements into a city’s stormwater system can be very detrimental. To mitigate against such impacts, it is important to incorporate stormwater management techniques into your zoning ordinance. Setting an impervious surface maximum per building site in lieu of a lot coverage standard is a key first step. Establishing creative ways to allow exceptions for non-conforming lots or protecting sensitive areas with further limits in can be an ideal way to establish proper protections. Both options require careful consideration and proper ordinance writing.

Zoning For Alternative Energy Sources

Reduced energy demand may improve the reliability of the electricity grid. However, a city’s zoning ordinance may prohibit certain alternative energy systems. Solar panels and wind energy conversion systems that residents wish to use may not be allowed. Setting reasonable standards around such uses is a good way to encourage alternative energy solutions. Solar farms are not always appropriate for all areas and creating a thoughtful framework around this concept is of the utmost importance to a community. Finding solutions to resolve conflicts between competing community goals and proper management is ideal.

Subdivision Ordinance Innovation

Subdivision ordinances establish regulations necessary to allow the division of property for additional development rights. Establishing a framework for environmental protection in your subdivision ordinance will allow for a reasonable balance between development rights and environmental protection. For example, many communities explore concepts where population density can be increased if, in exchange, additional protections are offered to ensure long-term management of protected areas.

How we can help

The professionals at WSB can provide guidance and expertise in improving your regulatory systems to achieve your sustainable community goals in relation to sustainability. We have expertise in comprehensive planning, grant writing, and the preparation of ordinances that can help your organization achieve their goals related to sustainability.

Nate has been a community development professional for over 20 years. He has worked with a wide variety of communities providing guidance to municipalities of various sizes and types on a broad array of topics. He has significant experience working in townships and smaller cities which often face unique issues. His work includes writing comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances for several area communities, as well as serving the community point person for planning and zoning issues for 10 area cities and townships.

[email protected] | 952.221.0540

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