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Small Community Planning Toolbox

Some useful techniques for small and rural communities include:

Conservation Subdivision:

A residential development where 50% or more of the buildable land is designated as undivided, permanent open space. This is a density-neutral technique (overall density is the same as allowed with conventional layout) that results in preserved open space, dwellings placed to take advantage of access to or views of that open space, and in a manner that respects the environmental conditions and landscape of the site. It differs from a conventional subdivision where all land is divided up and included in a new subdivided parcel.

CP&EA clients including the Town and Village of Kinderhook, NY have planned for and implemented regulations to require use of conservation subdivisions.

Design Guidelines or Standards:

Design standards are meant to supplement comprehensive plans, site plan review laws or zoning laws by offering illustrations and more detail on desired site and building design, road construction, and landscaping. Some also include signs and other accessory structures. Many communities recognize that design, and thus the aesthetic character of their location, are vital to their culture, economic development and quality of life. Design guidelines provide specific examples of architectural treatments or site plan details so that development proposals respect the desired character of the community.

The Town of Berne, NY, another CP&EA client, has recently adopted a set of design standards to help new development fit into this rural and historic hamlet.

Community Image Surveys:

A significant concern of many people in rural areas is that of design and layout. The "look" of buildings and landscapes adds substantially to the overall character of a place. The Community Image Preference Survey is a tool that helps determine the aesthetic “likes” and “dislikes” of a community. If aesthetic concerns are an issue, then this technique is recommended. A series of slides depicting a variety of scenes, landscapes, housing developments, roads, streets, signs, and buildings are shown to participants. Each slide is rated on a scale results show what types of images are preferred and not preferred. This survey can be very useful in developing goals and objectives to be met in a comprehensive plan, and can also be translated development design standards.

Many of CP&EA’s clients, including the Village of Colonie, NY have utilized the Community Image Survey.

Build Out Analysis:

A build-out analysis can be a powerful tool in long-range community planning. It allows a community to look ahead and see what the consequences of full development build-out using that municipality’s current zoning or other land use policies. The technique typically uses a Geographic Information System to conduct the analysis and it results in projections of population, number of dwellings, number of school aged children, and maps showing where new development would occur.

A build-out is a common analysis that CP&EA conducts during the comprehensive planning process and has been included in the plans of many of our clients including the Town of Warwick, NY.

Performance and Environmental Zoning:

(More to come)

Main Street Revitalization using the Main Street Approach:

(More to come)


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