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Thread: What does "community design" mean in a rural area?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    What does "community design" mean in a rural area?

    This may seem like a stupid question, but with the Wisconsin "Smart Growth" legislation there are certain things comp plans need to touch on (an actual checklist they go through when reviewing the plan for certification), and one of the things on the checklist is "Community Design" which they don't elaborate on at all. I'm doing some comp plans for rural townships, and I'm not sure what to say about Community Design as it pertains to them. In urban areas I would suggest Form Based Codes, and things like that. But, that wouldn't make much sense in areas where they are anti-development and want to remain rural. We've discussed it within the office, and most of my co-workers are leaning towards referring to how natural features should be considered first, and subdivisions should be designed around them. Basically, the are considering the word "design" as a verb while that is not really the way I want to go with it. I feel like in the term "Community Design" the word "design" is a noun.

    Any thoughts? I'd love your input.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Environmental design is not a bad place to start. After that, if the community wants to retain its "rural character" (whatever that is) have the citizens help define the term.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Well, environment can be a part of it, if that is important in the community. And it should be based on the existing character of the area. A good starting point is how locals define "rural character." What is it about the way things are that they like and want to see be preserved or be replicated with new development? Is the community agricultural or heavy on natural resources? There is plenty that affects the "community design" of rural communities

    These are a few examples are from rural mid-atlantic communities I'm familiar with...

    Preserving hedgrows between properties and/or along streets (or stone walls, wood fences, etc...)

    Preserving wooded areas along main roads

    Preserving views of fields from main roads

    Preserve narrow rural roadways with overarching tree canopies

    Do they want clustered development or large lot; and how large 1 acre, 10 acre?

    In new development how wide should roads be? Should they have sidewalks?

    Maintaining similar setbacks from roads...big in large-lot areas; small in village crossroads

    In village areas requiring front porches and/or parking to the side or rear

    In village areas having build-to lines to continue the streetscape

    Requiring (or not) sidewalks in village areas or new residential development

    Setting a plan for streets for future extension of village areas (official map...)

    Sign regulations...

    Heck, preserving the character by preserving the farm economy can lead to a lot of diverse issues-- whether to allow and then the design regulations for farm stand sales or farm entertainment uses

    There are plenty of design issues in rural areas...

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    What is community design

    Skyfire is right on point. Community Design is just that, preserving or enhancing the built environment of the community based on the wishes and desires of the municipality and community residents. If it is small town rural, then just ensure that there are policies and design guidelines to ensure the small town rural feel of the Community remains.

    My firm has worked on a number of "Community Plans" for small towns and they have all included a component called "Community Character / Design" (which i happen to work in our community planning sector, go figure). This chapter consists of policies and standards pertaining to the built environment regarding housing, commercial, parks, open space, industrial and their downtown. Essentially this is a check list for the County to refer to when a project comes along to ensure the design meets the standards of the Community, henceforth, community design.

    You can check it out on the web:
    http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/delhidraftplan.html

    or

    http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/...alcomplan.html

    Both of these documents have been approved by the municipality. Good Luck!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    It means convincing Ma and Pa Jones to not put highly reflective corrugated metal siding on their "home," or getting the general population to agree that shipping containers are not an adequate structure for full time living.... Or that RV's really aren't intended for permanent all season living Or that keeping dozens of old time locking door fridges on the property....is an unsafe and attractive nuisance... Or that allowing "accessory" metal toy box garages on residential property when they are 85% of the buildable area vs. 15% of the "living" area is a BAAAAD IDEA.....accessory structures should NOT exceed the residential living area in a small lot residential zoning district.......Or that.....oh well, you starting to get the picture.....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    The One raises what is actually a serious point in land use controls in rural areas -

    case in point, and I have 3 of these - the 3-4 generation family accumulating just crap all over the property, old trucks, tires, appliances, no gravel for the driveway, just mud - nobody bugs them for years - enter family of 4 settling down to Maine from a major metropolitan area, builds a nice stick-built shingle-style, quintessential Maine house, so nice... then after taking occupancy, upon hearing mad dogs barking, people yelling, Bud cans everywhere, comes into my office and says, in a very educated way, WTF

    uh, ayup...now that's community design when you convince this family that they need to clean up the joint -

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    The One raises what is actually a serious point in land use controls in rural areas -

    case in point, and I have 3 of these - the 3-4 generation family accumulating just crap all over the property, old trucks, tires, appliances, no gravel for the driveway, just mud - nobody bugs them for years - enter family of 4 settling down to Maine from a major metropolitan area, builds a nice stick-built shingle-style, quintessential Maine house, so nice... then after taking occupancy, upon hearing mad dogs barking, people yelling, Bud cans everywhere, comes into my office and says, in a very educated way, WTF

    uh, ayup...now that's community design when you convince this family that they need to clean up the joint -
    Why? They were there first, and it's not like this stuff was ever regulated.

    Sorry, but I don't have much sympathy for yuppie exurbanites who come into rural areas and try to sanitize "the country" to fit their urban/suburban sensibilities. If you don't like the smell of manure don't buy land across the road from a dairy farm.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Linda - you are absolutely right but it's unfortunately not that simple -

    careful mediation, baby steps kind of thing -

    usually the town does have a junk yard prohibition and unregistered vehicles too (we do), but it's not enforced until Mr and Mrs major-metro-area-suburban couple move in that it gets dusted off

  9. #9
    Cyburbian MayorMatty's avatar
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    Conservation Design for Subdivisions

    This is the book you want to read by Randall Arendt. Rural by Design by Randall Arendt will help you too. The trick will be codifying their content, which is not so simple in rural towns who are likely using Euclidian zoning models.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MayorMatty View post
    This is the book you want to read by Randall Arendt. Rural by Design by Randall Arendt will help you too. The trick will be codifying their content, which is not so simple in rural towns who are likely using Euclidian zoning models.
    I've read the book. But these township aren't interested in conservation subdivisions. They aren't interested in welcoming any subdivisions at all.

    Thanks for the ideas, everybody.

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    Location

    I would probably also consider the location of say neighborhood gas stations, in rural areas rather than having centralized services like in bigger town usually farms ranches are so far apart there's gas/station/bar/general store every ten miles, clustering for sure, facilities people might use like centralized riding arenas, stock pens, shared facilities.

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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    It means convincing Ma and Pa Jones to not put highly reflective corrugated metal siding on their "home," or getting the general population to agree that shipping containers are not an adequate structure for full time living....
    I get where you are coming from... but, considering recent trends in architecture it seems "Ma and Pa Jones" may be well ahead of their time... Maybe sensibilities like this would be well utilized in the development of community character. One could take these viewpoints clean up the kitschiness a bit and end up with a pretty interesting 'sustainable by frugality / self sufficiency' development prototype. This connection between old time rural resourcefulness and the recent trend of sustainability is at least in my mind incredibly interesting and relevant. BUT, I may have my head stuck in the clouds...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beek View post
    I get where you are coming from... but, considering recent trends in architecture it seems "Ma and Pa Jones" may be well ahead of their time... Maybe sensibilities like this would be well utilized in the development of community character. One could take these viewpoints clean up the kitschiness a bit and end up with a pretty interesting 'sustainable by frugality / self sufficiency' development prototype. This connection between old time rural resourcefulness and the recent trend of sustainability is at least in my mind incredibly interesting and relevant. BUT, I may have my head stuck in the clouds...
    I think that a lot of folks pushing "sustainability" could learn a lot from the older "Ma and Pa Jones" living in rural areas. "Reuse and recycle" has nothing on "don't throw that away -- we might need it some day!".

    The rural people who grew up on farms in the Great Depression waste very little, even when the need for frugality is long gone. My Dad and stepmom had the largest collection of margarine/whipped topping tubs in Cattaraugus County. They had the world's largest collection of used bread bags, too. I bet they bought a roll of plastic wrap once a year or less! Until my Dad became too ill, he kept a large garden from which he and my stepmom canned or froze all kinds of fruits and veggies. He also hunted squirrel and rabbit specifically for meat.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Nice try.....

    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think that a lot of folks pushing "sustainability" could learn a lot from the older "Ma and Pa Jones" living in rural areas. "Reuse and recycle" has nothing on "don't throw that away -- we might need it some day!".

    The rural people who grew up on farms in the Great Depression waste very little, even when the need for frugality is long gone. My Dad and stepmom had the largest collection of margarine/whipped topping tubs in Cattaraugus County. They had the world's largest collection of used bread bags, too. I bet they bought a roll of plastic wrap once a year or less! Until my Dad became too ill, he kept a large garden from which he and my stepmom canned or froze all kinds of fruits and veggies. He also hunted squirrel and rabbit specifically for meat.
    A good effort with this post, I might even but into the idea.....if absolutely everything made these days wasn't total and complete crap/junk quality that hardly stands a chance of lasting 5 years, let alone 50 years like back in the day.

    On paper this is a great idea, but like paper, it won't stand up to years of rain, snow, sleet, heat and wind
    Skilled Adoxographer

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Assuming there is a market for new housing, in a rural municipality there are a number of ways to accommodate new growth. You can infill into the existing communities; you can expand the existing communities outwards; or you can build new communities separate from the old communities. Of course you can do a bit of all three too.

    Each method of growth has its pros and cons – which are generally a balance of environmental sustainability (favoring infill) and community stability (favoring new communities). Determining which method to use depends on how welcoming the locals are to new development in their communities, the cost of servicing both old and new communities (sewage, water, schools, fire protection, policing etc), the transportation network and the availability of land for each option.

    Once you’ve determined the most appropriate location for new development you can start making recommendation on the form of the new development starting with the street network (grid vs. loops etc.), location and size of community features (parks, schools etc.), and commercial areas (main street vs. plaza) and so on. Then you can get into built-form and siting issues like yard setbacks, lot widths, garage width, building heights, and so on.

    To me all that would be “Community Design”.

    If you’re not anticipating a lot of new growth then community design becomes a lot more about how to maintain or enhance the character of the existing communities within your rural municipality.

  16. #16
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    rural design

    Mayor Matty is right that "Conservation Design for Subdivisions" is a relevant book. However, if you want the actual regulations, see "Growing Greener", its sequel. Or e-mail me at rgarendt@cox.net for an electronic copy of the model codes, gratis. And/or visit the websites www.greenerprospects.com and www.landchoices.com. For many free downloadable articles, browse the greenerprospects website, under "Products".

    Rural can also mean hamlets or villages, a more "urban" form within the countryside. The relevant book for that is "Crossroads, Hamlet, Village, Town", or again, e-mail me for free codes.

    Pictures are often worth a thousand words, so if you like images, "Envisioning Better Communities" contains almost 600 of them, in color.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    I appreciate the "Crossroads, Hamlet, Town, Village" example. We have nice historic little villages here and there, but under county growth management now all you can build are conservation subdivisions or ranchettes. Might transfer of development rights be a consideration in advancing this form?

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