Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Putting Smart Growth To Work in Rural Communities


10 Smart Growth Principles

  1. Mix land uses.
  2. Take advantage of compact design.
  3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
  4. Create walkable communities.
  5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
  6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
  7. Strengthen and direct development toward existing communities.
  8. Provide a variety of transportation options.
  9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective.
  10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

Smart growth is not just for metropolitan regions seeking to stem suburban sprawl. Smart growth can help create vibrant, walkable Main Streets in rural communities, while preserving historic buildings and community character, according to a new reported funded by by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Sustainable Communities.

The International City/County Management Association's "Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities" examines the challenges rural communities face and discusses how to adapt smart growth strategies to meet those challenges.

"This publication is designed to provide rural decision-makers with a resource for balancing competing goals while creating more vibrant, sustainable communities," the report explains. "It is intended to show how smart growth approaches can be adapted and applied in the rural context, particularly in times of change."

The report builds upon three goals:

  1. Support the rural landscape by creating an economic climate that enhances the viability of working lands and conserves natural lands.
  2. Help existing places thrive by taking care of assets and investments such as downtowns, Main Streets, existing infrastructure, and places that the community values.
  3. Create great new places by building vibrant, enduring neighborhoods and communities that people, especially young people, don’t want to leave.

"If rural communities are to meet the broad challenge of maintaining rural character while also supporting economic growth and opportunity, they require a set of tools that can be adjusted to reflect the diversity of rural communities and that can apply to both expanding and contracting economies," the report notes.

The report includes case studies from across the country.

"As today’s rural leaders struggle to deal with both internal and outside pressures, they should seek a balance that integrates old and new and links rural economic traditions with new innovations," the report explains. "Balanced approaches can help bridge the gaps between residents who prize natural resources and those who champion new growth as a measure of success."

The smart growth concepts outlined in the report are intended to provide useful ideas for specific strategies that can build on a community’s assets and further enhance its sense of place.

The report has been added to the Best Practices.

Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities