by Barry Watkins, 10/20/14
So, last article we talked about why we desperately need the SmartCode in Brevard and why our existing codes need to be changed. Just how does the SmartCode work and how will it create those walkable places we keep talking about? I want to spend the next few articles talking about that and about how we can get it adopted here. Let’s go!
If you want to look at the code you can download it free of charge from smartcodecentral.com. The SmartCode is a model land development code designed to be plugged into the existing city and county codes, and is designed specifically to create complete, walkable neighborhoods. It has been adopted in hundreds of places all over the US and around the world, and it has been proven to produce great results. There are many great examples of where the SmartCode and variations of the SmartCode have been implemented successfully such as: Seaside, Mashpee Commons, Kentlands. And more recently: Downtown Ft. Myers, Petaluma, and Miami.
So, how does the code work? I’ll use Cocoa’s Diamond Square as a backdrop for some detailed examples. Looking at about a 1 mile stretch of SR 520 west of US 1 let’s see what the SmartCode could do there. This area is currently pretty economically depressed. Has quite a few empty lots along this busy highway, a few abandoned buildings, and some more buildings that are not in very good shape.
A few things are happening here that the SmartCode could help with. With the new code adopted and properly applied in this area property values would instantly rise. Why do I say that? Because the SmartCode raises the bar of quality for development. When higher standards are applied along this stretch of road that will instantly make the place more attractive to investors, potential residents, and business owners. The surrounding area here has plenty of low-income residential. What the area lacks is a diversity of offerings that could attract people of higher incomes as well. The SmartCode will absolutely help with that.
How is quality raised by the code? By requiring street trees for starters. In communities governed by the SmartCode shade trees are required to be planted on every street. The new code being adopted tomorrow wouldn’t mean trees get planted immediately, but it does mean that the city would institute a plan to plant the trees within a reasonable time frame to get the area up to the new code. They should start with higher visibility areas near higher activity centers and work their way outward from there. The beautiful thing about street trees is that they pay for themselves in raising tax revenues wherever they are planted. In a lower-income community like Diamond Square this means we have to raise incomes and increase business activity in the area to pay for the higher quality amenities, but if we do things right incomes will rise and business activity will be increased partly by the raising of the quality of development. So, it’s a no brainer, raising the standards is a win-win proposition. Not raising the standards pretty much ensures that the area will never prosper and the quality of life for residents will never improve.
A small road-block (pardon the pun) is that some highway standards make it hard to put in street trees. The SmartCode is a local code, but there are county, state, and federal regulations that also control what happens along some of our roads. Thankfully, all of these levels of government are recently making changes that allow for the pedestrian-friendly improvements that local places want to see. It may take some negotiation to get street trees approved in some places and some adjustments may have to be made to make it happen. Speeds are usually the biggest factor. If speeds can be reduced to below 40mph then that makes it a lot easier to improve pedestrian- and bike- friendliness along the road.
The code will also require sidewalks on most streets and will require parking to be hidden behind buildings or screened from view from the main street. It gives us the chance to require landscaped medians in multi-lane streets as well. The parking location standards will bring huge improvements aesthetically. It again will happen over time, but as time goes on after the code is adopted we will see buildings built closer to the street and parking behind, and in some cases parking hidden from view behind decorative walls and landscaping. After awhile as more buildings are improved the change will be quite dramatic. The feel along the street will be much more pleasant as gaps get filled with attractive architecture rather than parking lots being the most prominent feature along the roadside.
What do we want all over Brevard? Do we want more places like this?
Or like this?
The ball is in our court today as citizens. We can support policies that will mold the future of Brevard into whatever we want it to be! Let’s unite and make Brevard the very best it can be starting with supporting the SmartCode today! If you like what you’re hearing so far about what the SmartCode will do for our County and cities please support our effort by doing the following: 1) Join the Walkable Brevard Facebook Group – facebook.com/groups/walkablebrevard, 2) Send this article to as many people as you can, especially your favorite local officials and let them know you support the adoption of the SmartCode, and invite them to support it too! Thanks!
Contact Barry Watkins at Walkable Brevard for more information. email: firstname.lastname@example.org, ph: 321-355-2747.