Developing Sustainable Communities
Environmentally sustainable communities are cities, small towns and local neighborhoods where people connect, and where they can secure the daily necessities and reach everyday destinations--jobs, schools, parks, grocery stores--without having to climb into their car and drive for every trip.
They are places where new construction is thoughtfully integrated into the neighborhood fabric; where walking, biking or using the bus is simple and convenient; and where public parks and spaces are fun, safe and inviting. In sustainable communities, people have options: to use less fossil fuel, to get more exercise as part of their daily life, to access fresh local food. They are close-knit communities and neighborhoods where people watch out for one another, mom-and-pop business thrive, and historic assets are valued.
It's been called Smart Growth, Placemaking, and simply good land use. But at MEC, we believe that policies should support and nurture each community's history and unique nature, support walkeable and bikeable design and foster community connections. Not only is it good for the environment, it also create more desirable places for young people to live. And in the long run, what makes our places more appealing and our communities more sustainable can also make our state more economically successful.
Developers, state and local governments, neighborhood leaders and local residents must work together in order to build more sustainable communities. It starts with good land use planning, so that we protect what makes communities and neighborhood unique. We need better tools to coordinate the many independent decisions made by governments, schools and transportation, so that these systems work well and link seamlessly, giving people have options for getting places they need to go. And we need to support local businesses while encouraging responsible new development and attracting new residents.
We need policies that encourage long-term thinking about where and what structures we build and rebuild, and how we engage residents and support neighborhood placemaking through improved parks, more mixed use housing and shopping districts, and include art and historical elements in order to make every place a great destination.
MEC Sustainable Communities Priorities
• State land use goals that encourage more thoughtful development patterns and “placemaking” efforts, with an eye toward revitalizing older neighborhoods, reducing traffic congestion and creating healthy and vibrant communities and downtown business districts.
• Policies and programs that encourage reinvestment in our existing communities rather than subsidizing new development in undeveloped, greenfield areas.
• Land protection measures that reduce sprawl and protect our forests, farmland and special natural areas.
• Better coordination among the state’s more than 1,800 townships, counties, cities and joint planning authorities to ensure sustainable development and transportation decisions made in one municipality aren’t undercut by short-term decisions made in neighboring communities.
• Training, resources and tools to help local leaders who make difficult development decisions understand and implement placemaking and sustainable community design.
• Adopt a much stronger “fix-it-first” approach to funding infrastructure improvements. Our existing water and sewer infrastructure should be in great shape and its future maintenance secured before it’s expanded. New development that requires expanding our infrastructure should share the real costs for building it.
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