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Smart–Growth Principles Don’t Just Create Pretty Neighborhoods

August 3, 2008

By Michelle Dynes, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

Aug. 3–CHEYENNE — City planning that reduces sprawl also reduces the environmental impacts of development.

Smart–growth principles not only create attractive, walkable neighborhoods, but also minimize pollution and preserve natural lands. Dispersed planning encourages residents to drive instead of walk. Fewer roads decrease infrastructure costs.

“We don’t have the luxury to do sprawl development like we did in past decades,” said Matt Ashby, urban planning director for the city of Cheyenne. “Previously, people thought, ‘It would be nice to live in a smart–growth neighborhood.’ But it didn’t have the impact on their pocketbook that it has now.”

He added that rising gasoline prices legitimized what was once considered a “trendy” way to design neighborhoods. Compact, mixed–use development allows residents to live, work and play in a single neighborhood. It creates safe walking and biking routes, which allow people to park vehicles in the garage.

Part of the reason the Avenues remain popular is because it is a walkable neighborhood close to downtown and city parks, said Brandon Cammarata, senior planner with the city’s Urban Planning Office.

Fewer and shorter car trips also decreases air emissions and saves money. City officials don’t spend as much to build and maintain roads. Public transportation provides alternative ways to get around.

Cluster development reduces the miles driven by as much as 58 percent, according to an Environmental Protection Agency evaluation. It protects water quality by limiting paved surfaces. Runoff from developed areas often contains toxic chemicals that can contaminate drinking water supplies. Undeveloped land permits the natural filtration of rainwater and runoff.

For example, it makes more sense to build a parking garage near a shopping center than to construct 30 acres worth of parking lots, Ashby said. He added that the city’s blueprint, PlanCheyenne, uses smart–growth principles for development plans.

Cammarata said another goal of PlanCheyenne is to offer residents more lifestyle choices beyond the traditional single–family home.

Officials also are revisiting city codes to remove the zoning roadblocks to smart–growth developments. Ashby said developers jumped through several hoops to assemble the neighborhood known as The Village off of Storey Boulevard and Powderhouse Road. The area contains Jackson’s All American Sports Grill and room for buildings with loft apartments upstairs and retail businesses downstairs.

Ashby said the market demands more options like this, and city codes shouldn’t discourage developers from using smart–growth principles.

“It’s more efficient to grow and run a city with a smart–growth pattern,” he added.

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