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.
1. Some people have never heard of smart growth. What a pity it is to be unaware that we’ve been sold an inefficient way of life, and that there’s a beautiful, simpler, less expensive way to live. This book club is a vehicle to raise awareness and do our part to build a critical mass in society that will effect change that will improve air quality, our health and create stronger communities.
2. It’s a forum for smart growth devotees to network and share information. Meeting together is an enjoyable and easy way to learn. We blog face-to-face, if you will, and get to know who else is out there striving for common sense in our communities. Smart growth is about community, right?
3. Together, we may brainstorm ways to practically make the Lehigh Valley a better place to live, work, play, and worship.
4. We can make ourselves available to help one another recalibrate our own communities. For example, we may share ordinances and codes which have worked, or even attend each others’ township meetings.
5. It is hoped that this will lead to local, bi-partisan community support, and commonsense behavior. Smart growth is a broad-based cause that I believe is supported by everyone who understands it. Conservatives ought to be behind it because it aids families and the economy and saves money. Liberals should back it since it is a framework for better social parity and environmental sustainability. The need for it reaches every person’s life.
6. And of course, the book club is an excuse to better educate ourselves and thus make better choices.
To date we have held two meetings, and the conversation has been enjoyable, enlightening, and encouraging. We’re still working through James Howard Kunstler’s Home from Nowhere, an engaging book that will draw in the novice as well as give talking points to the experienced. Our December meeting “covered” only the book’s first half, so in order to do it justice, let’s discuss the second half in January. As always, if you can’t read the book, you won’t be left out in the cold; your presence is important. We hope to see you at The Allentown Brew Works at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 21! Please spread the word.
If possible, sign up on Facebook, or email Joanne Guth at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know you’re going.
We look forward to seeing more of you at our second meeting at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, December 17 in the mezzanine at the Allentown Brew Works, 812 Hamilton St. You can use the parking garage behind the Holiday Inn where the Smart Growth Summit was held, or there is a lot behind the building across Hamilton St. from the Brew Works for no charge.
The discussion between the four of us at the first meeting was lively and promising. This time the plan is to actually discuss Kunstler’s ideas in Home from Nowhere. Click here for his article (excerpted from the book) in The Atlantic Monthly.
Again, if you can’t read the book, come anyway with your ideas, or to network, listen, or learn. We need you!
If possible, sign up on Facebook, or email Joanne Guth at email@example.com to let me know you’re going.
Spread the word!
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.