Barry Watkins 7/2/15
A few years ago, I became a huge fan of the SmartCode, the New Urbanist Model Land Development Code. I went to a 3-day workshop down in South Beach Miami. Andres Duany and his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk were there along with a host of other prominent New Urbanists talking about the ins and outs of the SmartCode – why it’s written the way it is and how to get it to work for local cities and counties. Since then the excitement that started in me at that workshop has continued to grow. I’m continually researching all the latest thoughts in city planning and monitor the successes and failures of planning efforts all over the world. One thing remains. I believe in the SmartCode! This thing really works, people! It’s being adopted and used in more and more communities all around the world every day, and it’s doing its job – making walkable places! We need to adopt the SmartCode for Brevard County and in every city in our county RIGHT NOW!!!
There may be some legitimate challenges to getting the SmartCode adopted in Brevard County. It’s a radical shift for us. People don’t understand it. There’s no money in our city and county budgets for a major code change right now. There’s no money for sidewalks! Ha, you know I’ve heard people say a few of these things. I even had a hard-core New Urbanist Planner tell me we don’t really need the SmartCode, we can just use PUD‘s to get the job done! Let me speak to a few of these.
- It’s a radical shift for us. Yes, of course it’s radical. Sadly, we need basically a 180-degree turn away from the way we have been building and coding things. That’s precisely why we need it so desperately! A less radical solution will produce half-way results and that’s not what we need. However, even though it is designed to bring big, positive, long-term changes, the model code is written in such a way that we can implement those changes in ways that are gradual and blend nicely with existing development.
- People don’t understand it. Actually, one of the strengths of the SmartCode is that it’s simple! It can outdo the work of a conventional code using a fraction of the number of pages in your code book. It’s written so that it covers most things you would ever need to cover in your Land Development Code, but it does it very efficiently. When people get over the hurdle of understanding some of the basic principles of the code it becomes very easy to understand the details. There will be an “ah-ha” moment that people generally need to reach when the code is explained to them. After that hurdle is crossed, the rest is actually much easier to understand than the average conventional Code. Lay people can understand it, and your planning staff will love it because it’s simple and easy to administrate. In the long run, your administrative time and costs will be lower with the SmartCode.
- There’s no money in our budget for a major code change. Check this out. The SmartCode will cost you nothing at all to adopt and implement. No money needed! Ok, you need to budget for a few public meetings and some staff time for training and administration, but for most places these minor expenses can actually be covered easily with nothing beyond your ordinary operating budget. As the point was made above, the code is much simpler to understand and administrate than your conventional code, so in the long run the more it’s used the lower your administrative costs will be. It’s going to save you money, not cost you!
- There’s no money for sidewalks, street trees, street improvements, etc. Here’s the thing. Any improvements to your community that the SmartCode will bring will be paid for by private investment. It is a little more expensive for developers to build high-quality places, but the returns for them are also much higher. Adopting this code will actually bring your city and county a great RONI, Return On No Investment! Tax revenues will go up as land values increase so the returns are great. The investments are made by private enterprise through impact fees and your current taxes. Income to the local government goes up the more the private sector prospers. Everyone wins!
Current codes (like PUD’s) can do the job. Sorry, but the SmartCode has proven to be much better at producing consistent results across cities and counties. PUD’s can be great, but the SmartCode does a better job at prescribing walkability changes that can be implemented all over your communities – existing places, redevelopment, infill, and new development. The SmartCode will not only make newly built places walkable, but it will over time bring improvements to every part of your community, existing and new.
Let Walkable Brevard help you! Let’s start today. Give us a call and let’s get things going in your community. We have trained people who can pass on to you their expert knowledge about New Urbanism, walkable development, and the SmartCode to augment the skills and knowledge of your local planning staff and building professionals. Let us help you host a walkability workshop for your city. Through a proven public process we can show you how to make the biggest impact toward walkability in your community in a way that is positive and relatively painless!