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A recent report by Smart Growth America, “Building Better Budgets,” says that, “Many municipalities have found that a smart growth approach would improve their financial bottom line. Whether by saving money on upfront infrastructure; reducing the cost of ongoing services like fire, police and ambulance; or by generating greater tax revenues in years to come, community after community has found that smart growth development would benefit their overall financial health. Many of these findings have been made publicly available.
No national survey has examined these savings as a whole until now. This report is the first to aggregate those comparisons and determine a national average of how much other communities can expect to save by using smart growth strategies.
Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development surveys 17 studies that compare different development scenarios, including a brand- new study of Nashville-Davidson County, TN, commissioned specifically for this report.
The development scenarios included in our analysis are separated into two categories: “Smart growth development” is characterized by more efficient use of land; a mixture of homes, businesses and services located closer together; and better connections between streets and neighborhoods. “Conventional suburban development” is characterized by less efficient use of land with homes, schools and businesses separated and areas designed primarily for driving. While not all studies use these terms, the scenarios in each category share many of these defining traits. A detailed discussion of individual studies is included in the appendices of this report.
The report looks at the costs associated with each development strategy as well as its revenue potential. When compared to one another, we find:
1. In general, smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves an average of 38 percent on upfront costs for new construction of roads, sewers, water lines and other infrastructure. Many studies have concluded that this number is as high as 50 percent.
Smart growth development patterns require less infrastructure, meaning upfront capital costs, long-term operations and maintenance costs, and, presumably, cost for eventual replacement are all lower. Smart growth development also often uses existing infrastructure, lowering upfront capital costs even more.
2. Smart growth development saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on police, ambulance and fire service costs.
The geographical configuration of a community and the way streets are connected significantly affect public service delivery. Smart growth patterns can reduce costs simply by reducing the distances service vehicles must drive. In some cases, the actual number of vehicles and facilities can also be reduced along with the personnel required.
3. Smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.
Our survey concluded that, on an average per-acre basis, smart growth development produces 10 times more tax revenue than conventional suburban development.
An opportunity for municipal leaders
Local leaders everywhere can use this information to make better fiscal decisions about development in their region.
The evidence presented in this report suggests improved strategies for land use and development can help local governments maintain and improve their fiscal solvency. As this report shows, smart growth development can reduce costs and in many cases increase tax revenue. This combination means that in some cases smart growth development can generate more revenue than it costs to operate.
These findings are true for any rural, suburban or urban community, anywhere in the country. Local governments throughout the United States are already facing unprecedented challenges in providing high-quality infrastructure and adequate public services to their residents on a tight budget. Choosing financially responsible development patterns can help communities across the country protect their fiscal health for generations to come.”
That’s a compelling argument for smart growth.
Lehigh and Northampton Counties and the Cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton are soliciting comments on a draft Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. The Regional Analysis of Impediments (RAI) is a review of barriers that affect the rights of fair housing choice and is required by HUD as a condition of receipt of funds under the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program.
Public Comment Period
A draft of the RAI will be available for public examination and comment from November 18 to December 22, 2013. Copies may be downloaded from http://www.envisionlehighvalley.comor may be viewed in the following locations: Allentown Public Library, Bethlehem Public Library, Easton Area Public Library. After the close of the Public Comment Period on December 18, the counties and cities will move forward with formal approval of the document and submission to HUD.
A Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, December 17 at 6:00:00 PM at the Lehigh County Government Center, 17 South Seventh Street, Allentown, PA. During this hearing, the LVEDC and its consultants will present information on the draft Regional Analysis of Impediments and receive comments from the public regarding the draft.
To Make Written Comments
Written comments can be made until 5:00 p.m. on December 22. Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, comments may be mailed to: Envision Lehigh Valley, c/o LVEDC, 2158 Ave. C, Suite 200, Bethlehem, PA 18017
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is undertaking a Regional Housing Analysis of the LehighValley. How do you envision home and neighborhoods? Join in on a discussion on housing availability and choice and what you like and don’t like about your neighborhood. Come share your vision and concerns.
Come to the Community Housing Plan meeting tonight November 25, 2013 at 6:30 PM at the East SideYouthCenter on 1140 E. Chair Street in Allentown. This event is a part of a series of discussions in the region that will support a new regional housing plan.
Can’t make it tonight? A similar meeting will be held on December 3rd at 6:00 PM at the NCCCFowlerFamilySouthsideCenter on 511 East Third Street in Bethlehem. These are the last two housing meetings so make sure to attend and make your voice heard.
If you can’t make these meetings, you can still participate! Follow this link to complete the Housing Matters survey being administered by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Your opinion is important, so make sure you participate.
On a similar note, if you’ve missed all of our Food Forums but would still like to learn about Fresh Food Access in our region, visit this link and you will be able to see our Fresh Food Access presentation right on YouTube. Additionally, we encourage you to share your opinion and take the Fresh Food Forum Survey! Thank you all for your continued support!
These meetings are a part of the EnvisionLehighValley managed by LVEDC. With the Lehigh Valley projected to add another 145,000 new residents over the next 20 years (more than have moved here in the last 20 years), your input is needed to make sure that we create a sustainable future for the region.
Go to the envisionlehighvalley.com website and register to get email blasts about upcoming meetings. Under events, you will see what meetings are coming up, so that you can participate. Go to our Envision Lehigh Valley Facebook page and like us.
Congratulations to Dave Lobach, double winner of our Smart Quote and FabFoto contest. Dave shared with us a beautiful photograph of his farm in the LehighValley, which he personally saved from being developed. Along with the photograph, he provided us with this poignant quote: “We’re losing the farmland forever. Do you know how long that is?” See it here!
In the short term, we may think that greenfield development is a good idea, but thanks to Dave, we are compelled to remember that the farmland being developed would be forever lost.
We look forward to seeing more beautiful photos of the LehighValley and encourage all of you to send us many more for next week’s photo contest. RenewLV is also eager to read any quotes, ideas, or stimulating thoughts you may have, so make sure to submit those as well. The LehighValley is a beautiful place with some thoughtful residents and we look forward to hearing from you. Winners will have their photo and/or quote sent to the 2,600 Friends of Renew Lehigh Valley.
Email submissions to email@example.com
Lehigh Valley residents are being urged to take part in a “virtual town hall meeting” that’s slated for 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16th. The location: wherever you use your personal computer or tablet device.
Attendees will simply have to log in and make their way to a YouTube video presentation on economic development and the future of the Lehigh Valley. The program is set up to allow input from viewers.
This cutting-edge event is being coordinated by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) in conjunction with Envision Lehigh Valley.
The entities are attempting to compile a regional approach to development and growth in the Lehigh Valley. During the planning stage, the goal is to engage the organizations, municipalities and individuals who have a stake in future development of the region.
The virtual town hall premise removes all obstacles for interested parties who cannot make their way to a brick-and-mortar meeting location.
The video will feature Jay Garner of Garner Economics, LLC, of Atlanta, Ga. Garner, who has been contracted to conduct this important study, is a nationally-recognized site selector and economic development consultant.
Garner’s work, which is being paid for with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a key initiative of Envision Lehigh Valley – a public outreach effort designed to engage the citizens of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley.
“We need to take a hard look at ourselves in comparison to other regions and understand our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and to develop our plans and strategies from an informed and realistic perspective,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC.
“We can’t afford to guess at things. We need to understand our own backyard fully, how we compare in the marketplace, and our unique assets to market. This will make our strategies and efforts informed and cost-effective.”
Once the program is set up, it can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvisionLehighValley. The virtual town hall will not get underway until 8 p.m. Monday.
For more information, contact Holly Edinger, director of Envision Lehigh Valley, at (610) 266-6775.
Marin named as Executive Director of RenewLV; brings wealth of experience and passion for smart growth and regional approaches
Joyce Marin, a well-known Lehigh Valley community/economic development professional, has been hired as our new executive director here at RenewLV (renewlv.org).
Marin brings extensive experience in downtown revitalization and local ordinances that support traditional neighborhood design from her time as Main Street Manager and council woman in Emmaus, as well as her past service as Director of the Department of Community and Economic Development for the City of Allentown. Ms. Marin was founding co-chair of RenewLV in 2006.
“Having an experienced, strategic and knowledgeable professional like Joyce will enable RenewLV to continue its important efforts to be the voice for regionalism in the Lehigh Valley,” said Deana Zosky, co-chair of the RenewLV board of directors. “Joyce also brings a tremendous amount of passion for smart growth, which will help us engage our stakeholders and the general public and raise the level of discussion Valley-wide.”
Marin’s academic credentials include an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and inclusion in the Knight Fellowship in CommunityBuilding at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture, the recognized center for New Urban thought and practice.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to direct my experience and education toward engaging the region’s leadership and the public more deeply in the discussion of a sustainable Lehigh Valley, regional cooperation and the efficient use of our resources through utilization of smart growth principals and policies,” said Marin.
In her new role, Ms. Marin will be facilitating the public outreach effort for Envision Lehigh Valley, engaging the citizens of Northampton and Lehigh Counties to create a truly sustainable Lehigh Valley. Additionally, Ms. Marin will be helping to organize the Lehigh Valley’s first smart growth conference, the Lehigh Valley Summit for Smart Growth to be held on October 24th at the Holiday Inn at Center City in Allentown. “The summit is a great opportunity for both the region’s leaders as well as regular citizens to get informed and engaged on what we can each do to have a better Lehigh Valley as we grow,” said Marin. For more information about the Smart Growth Conference, visit renewlv.org.
Marin resides in Macungie, Pa.
After two years here at Renew Lehigh Valley, first as a Community Fellow and now as the Director, it is a bittersweet Friday. I will be leaving RenewLV to get married this fall and head north to Connecticut to join my fiance in the next chapter of our lives. Today is my last day here at RenewLV, but before I left I wanted to say a few words over the blogosphere.
First and foremost, thank you! It has been an exciting two years to witness change and growth here at RenewLV. Though our initiatives have shifted since our foundation, our mission remains the same– promoting smart growth and efficient governance in the Lehigh Valley to create an environmentally and economically sustainable future for the region. The addition of Envision Lehigh Valley, the three-year Sustainable Communities regional planning grant, has gotten stakeholders and communities talking and excited about planning for a sustainable future for the Lehigh Valley. It has been a privilege to work with so many wonderful and talented people and to talk with so many enthusiastic and active community members across the Lehigh Valley. RenewLV’s continues to promote regional collaboration and efficient governance through regional crime data-sharing, regional collaborative management of water/wastewater systems, and inter-governmental cooperation for delivery of services in the Slate Belt. There are many exciting things on the horizon, including our first annual smart growth conference on October 24th and the return of our Brown Bag Discussion sessions. I’m sorry to be leaving at such an exciting time!
I hope you will welcome my successor (who you will meet shortly) with open arms, as you welcomed me into this new position, and support them in their new role. This is a long-term agenda, but through this collaborative network that continues to grow, I trust that even more promising things will blossom from the cooperative efforts of the Lehigh Valley. Though I may be four hours north, I’ll certainly be closely following the progress of this region that has become home. So thank you to you all for your support, your input, and your conversation over the past two years. I hope you will continue to support RenewLV and our efforts as we ALL work together to create a sustainable future for the Lehigh Valley.
With all the best,
High density housing often gets a bad reputation for unfair perceptions about increased traffic, crowded living and minimal parking but there are many advantages to this efficient use of land.
A developer presented a plan to the South Whitehall Township Commissioners on Wednesday night to build medium and high density housing along Blue Barn Road. The site to which he was referring is currently utilized by a single family home, a barn and open space. Nearby is a tract of land that was approved for a zoning change to accommodate medium to high density housing. The current zoning of the proposed development only allows for less than 4 units per acre; the new development would require 10 units per acre.
Attendees at the South Whitehall Township Board of Supervisors meeting voiced the usual concerns of increased traffic in more established neighborhoods, but the official vote on the zoning change won’t come until early September.
The Urban Vision has a compelling argument in favor of high density housing that outweighs arguments of increased traffic:
A high density and compact city form is the most ideal development pattern for the future. Here’s why:
Promotes thriving communities.
High density essentially signifies a concentration of people and their activities. A higher density neighborhood establishes a greater variety of leisure, shopping, amenities, work, and travel options. The wide cross -section of people and their activities also makes for a culturally rich area.
According to studies, the expenditures of housing and transportation for inhabitants with a moderate standard of living in a compact city would be 25 percent less in comparison with a standard low density city. Compact City would cost 50 percent less for comparable housing and superior transportation for people with a high standard of living. In addition, the costs for structuring a Compact City are really a redirecting of investments by way of urban rejuvenation instead of a fresh expense. The cost of redevelopment versus the cost of additional building by way of newer colonies shows that it may be a better bargain to rejuvenate urban cores.
Further, studies indicate that auto and fuel expenses per person in a low density American neighborhood costs in the region of $500 per year. Also, in such an urban area with a population of two million, there are typically more than one million cars. Transportation costs in such a situation can run over one billion dollars a year. In a compact high density city, more than a million cars could be swapped with less than 10,000 cars. This would represent not only millions of dollars of fuels saving but also lesser pollution.
Compact, high density cities are also said to be more economical given that infrastructure, such as roads and street lighting, can be offered more cost-effectively per capita .Also ,urban sprawl brings about the repetition of hospitals, schools, and many other public services and institutions. Larger and more equitable distribution of services is possible in dense compact cities. The merging and amalgamation of a number of urban facilities and public amenities makes way for many specialized conveniences that are currently not cost-effectively achievable. These services are also far more economical in a compact city vis-à-vis a low density city.
High density cities are known to be proficient for more sustainable transport systems. A compact city has population densities that are great enough to operate and maintain public transport. Also, because compact cities essentially mean high density and mixed use- people can live near to their work place and leisure facilities. Therefore, the need for travel is less and people can walk and cycle without trouble. According to estimates, the overall energy use should go down by at least 15 percent in compact cities. Also, Compact cities are known to conserve land. By reducing sprawl which is characterized by incessantly growing urban areas; land in the countryside and forests are preserved
Social Equity and integration
High density cities will also promote a sense of social equity by providing opportunities for the economically underprivileged. Further, the only way to offer housing for all sections of the society is by pursuing high density planning strategies. In societal terms, compact cities and mixed uses are connected with diversity, social unity and cultural growth. There is also indication that more concentrated neighborhoods have a great sense of kinship, cooperative spirit and vivacity – fundamentally because a wide range of people with a different set of beliefs and vales are in closer contact with one other.
The social, economic and environmental should be seriously considered as this debate unfolds at the next meeting of the South Whitehall Township supervisors, but they may also consider the current rural state of this area. Higher density housing can be used to combat sprawl but isn’t the right choice for every municipality. As the Lehigh Valley population continues to increase, many people will rightfully want to see rural areas maintained in conjunction with the need for more housing. Open space and land for food production are also important needs for any community. We must also consider other sustainability practices and while this development would provide land efficient housing, South Whitehall will have to make a big decision regarding their open space, the proposed neighborhood’s access to transportation and other resources as well as their housing needs.