In addition to supporting the implementation of the Berks County Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan, The Berks County Smart Growth Alliance recognizes the book "Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania"
as a valuable resource. The authors, Edward T. McMahon and Shelley S. Mastran, came up with Six Principles for Better Development. These valuable principles are expanded upon within the book in greater detail, with examples and pictures as well as well being accompanied by useful implementation strategies. Please take a moment to read the 6 Principles below:
1. Conserve Pennsylvania’s Farmland, Natural Areas and Scenic Assets
The first principle of better development should be identifying where not to develop. Successful communities always identify the areas that are most important to protect, whether it is farmland, forests, greenway corridors, riparian buffers and groundwater recharge areas, natural areas, scenic views or wildlife habitat. Every community needs an open space protection plan and the resources to implement it. Communities that have a blueprint for conservation are more amenable to accommodating growth in the areas where it is most appropriate. On the other hand, when citizens think all land is up for grabs, they often oppose development everywhere. Conserving natural and scenic assets is also important because working farms, forests, and scenic landscapes contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.
2. Maintain a Clear Edge between Town and Countryside
Pennsylvania has many strong cities and towns as well as healthy rural landscapes. Safeguarding the rural character of Pennsylvania means maintaining a clear edge between cities, towns, and countryside. This can be done by protecting agricultural land and open space while encouraging more compact building design and walkable communities. It also means encouraging infill development in our older communities, on vacant, underused or overlooked land near transit and on reclaimed former industrial sites (brownfields). By working to maintain a clear edge between town and countryside, Pennsylvania can preserve its rural landscapes and at the same time enhance the vitality of its existing communities.
3. Build and Maintain Livable and Attractive Communities
Attractive and livable cities and towns are the flip side of protecting rural character. Livable communities have a balance of jobs, homes, services, and amenities and provide interconnections among these elements. Livable communities provide housing choices and are walkable and affordable. They’re also well designed and attractive. Vibrant downtowns are especially important because they are the heart and soul of Pennsylvania communities, appeal to all ages, and provide the distinctive image that people take with them. We can even reshape the strip to make it more appealing and functional. Wherever new development or redevelopment occurs, location, scale, siting and design decisions should be carefully considered.
4. Preserve Historic Resources
Pennsylvania’s rich history is evident in the wealth of historic buildings and archeological sites found in cities, small towns and rural areas throughout the state. Historic assets should be identified and protected, and developers should be encouraged to rehabilitate and reuse historic structures. Protecting historic resources such as small-town main streets is also important because historic preservation is a powerful tool for economic revitalization that generates jobs and attracts tourists and investors.
5. Respect Local Community Character in New Construction
Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built since the end of World War II, and much of it is cookie-cutter, off-the-shelf junk. New buildings can either complement the character of Pennsylvania communities, or they can turn the state into “Anyplace USA.” Pennsylvania communities should do more to ensure that new construction—particularly chain stores, shopping centers, and franchises—respects local character. Pennsylvania’s natural setting, historical development pattern, and architectural traditions make this a distinctive place. By identifying what makes each community unique, and what harms that uniqueness, localities can develop standards that foster distinctive, attractive communities with economic vitality and a strong sense of place.
6. Reduce the Impact of the Car and Promote Walkability
Reducing the impact of the automobile means providing more transportation choice. It also means designing transportation facilities that are beautiful as well as functional, that meet the needs of people as well as those of motor vehicles, and that respect and enhance local communities. Design standards for neighborhood streets, roads, bridges, parking lots and other transportation facilities should be reexamined to make them more human-scale and community friendly. Even minor design improvements can lessen the negative visual and environmental impacts of new roads and bridges. Transportation choice can be expanded by providing better public transportation and building more sidewalks, trails, and bike paths that can create a network of non-motorized transportation options within and between communities to allow citizens to increase their physical activity close to home. Communities can also foster healthy lifestyles by considering walkable, mixed-use development and traffic-calming measures like roundabouts, curb extensions, or narrowing streets to slow down traffic and make walking and biking more desirable.
Do you want to read more about the Six Principles for Better Development? Go to the full text here.