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Smart Growth

View of downtown Saratoga Springs with sidewalks aesthetic improvements, benches, bike rack and street trees
Downtown enhancement

Smart Growth is sensible, planned growth that integrates economic development and job creation with community quality-of-life by preserving the built and natural environments. Smart Growth seeks to discourage development on open space and farmland and encourage growth in developed areas with existing infrastructure.

Smart Growth is many communities' answer to an age old question: "How do we use the land?" It is an approach that encourages clustered population centers, full of activity, diversity and character, surrrounded by life-sustaining natural areas and working landscapes. In practice, it is a combination of community planning activity, land use regulations, government incentives, and individual actions that can turn investment toward quality of life and better places.

diagram showing economic development plus environmental conservation contribute to smart growth which leads to sustainable communities

Smart Growth Tools

Some of the specific Smart Growth tools used to carry out these goals on the local level include:

  • mixed land uses
  • compact, conservation-oriented development
  • strategic farmland and open space preservation
  • historic preservation
  • brownfield re-development
  • vacant property re-use
  • "green" buildings
  • age-, income- and ethnically-integrated communities
  • affordable housing
  • pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly community design
  • transit-oriented development
  • regional land use and transportation planning
  • collaborative, public, stakeholder-driven planning processes
  • development targeted toward existing infrastructure
  • parks
  • well-planned public spaces.
Sprawl development consumes more acreage per household
Sprawl development consumes more acreage per household

image showing transit oriented development which draws growth toward mass transit corridors
Transit oriented development draws growth toward mass transit corridors

Principles of Smart Growth

Foster strong, sustainable businesses in community centers - enhance infrastructure in downtowns and villages to attract economic growth and discourage scattered development

Preserve open space, forests, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
- keep irreplacible resources intact to bolster local economies, improve quality of life, and guide growth inward

Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
- tap into existing infrastructure and neighborhood resources to stop the sprawling urban fringe

Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
- value development and construction that has distinctive architectural beauty

Create walkable neighborhoods
- build compactly and focus everyday activity along streetscapes designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and automobiles

Take advantage of green building design
- use innovative approaches, proper building placement, and local materials

Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
- build quality housing for people of all income levels with access to jobs, culture and open space

Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions
- work together to find creative solutions, increase community understanding and plan and invest in shared spaces

Mix land uses
- locate commercial uses proximate to residential areas and open space

Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost effective
- provide government leadership that creates a fertile environment for innovation

Provide a variety of transportation choices
- reinforce the viability of smart growth with efficient movement between housing, shopping, and jobs

Foster long term comprehensive planning
- plan to reach local, regional and state goals, to target investment, increase local capacity and increase intergovernmental efficiency


Environmental Benefits of Smart Growth

Energy Use - smart growth reduces vehicle miles traveled and decreases greenhouse gas emissions
Green Development - planned growth incorporates environmental awareness into land use decisions
Water Quality - smart growth leaves more and larger areas for the natural process of absorption and filtering
Ecosystems and Habitat - building compactly leaves ecosystems intact to support diverse plant and wildlife populations
Connection to Nature - smart growth creates links between our neighborhoods and areas set aside for nature based recreation


DEC Actions to Promote Smart Growth

Smart growth is a significant component of DEC's efforts to foster green and healthy communities across the state. The following smart growth initiatives are currently in action.

  • Partnerships with state agencies and the private sector in promoting and implementing smart growth principles
  • Promotion of park-wide planning and hamlet revitalization in the Adirondacks and implementation of the Adirondack Smart Growth Grants Program
  • Implementation of the Catskill Smart Growth Grants Program

More about Smart Growth:

  • Smart Growth in the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park - DEC has initiated EPF funding for towns, villages and not-for-profit organization partners in the Adirondack and Catskill Park. This funding is intended to help park communities capitalize on the historic and cultural assets of existing settlements to cultivate economic growth within the framework of highly protected forest preserve lands.