Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Pocket neighborhood development (PND) as a SmartCode community type

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,529
    Blog entries
    3

    Pocket neighborhood development (PND) as a SmartCode community type

    Thanks for your input in my previous SmartCode thread! What's described in my first post there is really ungainly, and probably not doable.

    Some of the following is reposted from the FAC; sorry if it states the obvious to those familiar with the SmartCode.

    The community I work for is a town (for all practical purposes, home-rule) that encircles a small city that is almost built out. The bulk of existing development consists of single family houses in very low density (0.5 - 2 du/ac) subdivisions, with some frontage residential development in outlying areas. There are still sizable agricultural (productive and vacant) and natural areas. There is relatively little commercial development. A major research university (20,000+ students) straddles the city/town boundary, and a 6,000 student liberal arts college is contained entirely in the town. The character could probably be best described as low-density suburban/exurban.

    The political environment is very progressive and favorable of strong land use planning; leaders here can see the big picture more clearly than other places where I've worked. However, there is also a very high level of NIMBYism and environmental activism in the region. There is a popular perception among some that low-density residential development is "greener" than denser development, because it has less impervious surface coverage.

    We're in the process of writing a new comprehensive plan. TPTB are very interested in learning more about form-based codes. The SmartCode, one type of FBC I'm looking at, doesn't have zones per se, but rather transects that would be part of a larger traditional neighborhood development (TND) or clustered land development (CLD), centered around a pedestrian shed. The intensity of a development is determined by the designation of the underlying land on a regional scale map; O-1 and O-2 (open space preserve and open space reserve), G-1 (restricted growth sector), G-2 (controlled growth sector), G-3 (intended growth sector) and G-4 (infill sector). I'm working on a conceptual regional scale plan map if my community decided to go with the SmartCode route. (The community where I worked previously has the SmartCode, but not a regional scale plan; farmland and open space preservation was a very low priority, so essentially the entire city was an intended growth sector.)

    A big challenge: as in many other communities in the Northeastern US, the land ownership pattern is quite fragmented, making it a challenge for a developer to create a new community plan for a TND or CLD. Unlike the Western US, large contiguous parcels are uncommon here. Many of the relatively intact large parcels that are here are productive farms with underlying agricultural zoning, which would likely remain in the O-2 sector.

    To address the dearth of large, contiguous non-ag/conservation parcels, I'm considering a new community type, the PND, or pocket neighborhood development, to permit NU development on smaller parcels (2-10? acre) where a TND or CLD would be impractical. A PND would be intended to eventually be absorbed into a larger TND that might be built in the future. However, the ped shed concept might not be part of a PND, since having a commercial component and civic space for what's essentially a cottage community or small subdivision would be impractical. There might only be one or two transects in a PND, depending on the underlying growth sector designation on the regional scale plan. It's something that might make NU purists furious, but we have to be pragmatic, and play with the cards we're dealt.

    Immediate transit improvements aren't likely. The buildout period for new neighborhood units would probably be 10 to 20 years, given the region's slow but steady population growth.

    Your thoughts?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,529
    Blog entries
    3
    Bump bump bump.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2003
    Location
    at the neighboring pub
    Posts
    5,248
    You're hitting on my frequent criticism of the SmartCode--it doesn't do particularly well with small infill properties or really, just small properties in general. Like you said, the ped shed stuff doesn't work and it doesn't necessarily make sense to have a commercial/civic use within the site in the great scheme of things. For example, commercial/civic might be better suited to a property nearby that is not under the same ownership. I think this is what you are getting at with it being absorbed into a larger TND.

    What you are proposing sounds like a workable solution. I'd suggest doing a couple of hypothetical tests on area properties to see whether such an approach will get you the results you want, or that it is at least more likely to get the desired results than the current codes.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    225
    What I've seen done in the past for areas where the municipality wants to see more growth in a certain form, but the market or infrastructure is not there yet, is to require developers to prepare an "ultimate" build-out concept when they submit an application for a more modest development. You need to set minimum standards (e.g. 2.0X FSI, continuous 3 storeys along street edge, etc.) which the ultimate concept has to meet. The developer then has to design the current development so that it does not preclude development of the ultimate plan at some point in the future. This may be done by reserving part of the site for future development or using 'temporary' buildings with limited lease agreements. The usual solution is to have surface parking for the current phase which is replaced that with underground or structured parking and an additional building in a later phase. By doing this you allow new development that is marketable today, while also protecting for the future built-form you want to see.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2010
    Location
    BC, Canada
    Posts
    218
    I've seen communities go an extra step in their transportation planning to ensure that the new neighborhoods develop in a block pattern - so that as growth progresses at the speed it will, developers must build their part of a sensible street network and connectivity is possible. I've seen communities map collector roads at 1/4 mi increments, which while not quite a block pattern, sets the stage for smaller interconnected developments and doesn't let collectors be located at the whim of the developer. Not sure if FB codes already cover this.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    6

    They're transect zones, not transects, and your idea is fine

    Hi Dan and all,
    I edit the model SmartCode and its transect-based Modules for the Center for Applied Transect Studies. First, let me clarify some terminology. You wrote:
    "The SmartCode, one type of FBC I'm looking at, doesn't have zones per se, but rather transects that would be part of a larger traditional neighborhood development (TND) or clustered land development (CLD), centered around a pedestrian shed."

    You're almost right, but it absolutely does have zones - it's a kind of zoning that provides habitat zones with interdependent elements, rather than the conventional single-use zoning that encouraged sprawl. So we should use the terms "transect zones" or T-zones," not "transects." A local transect is the whole range of zones. You can see the "model" zones on Table 1 of the model SmartCode, which is available free on the CATS site to anyone in this discussion who doesn't have one.

    The T-zones are used at a fine grain, as Ann Daigle explained in the last thread. The exceptions are T2 and T-1, which may extend outside of ped sheds as noted on page A2 of the SmartCode's Manual. However, it is good practice to place at least the T-2 dwellings within the ped shed so those folks can walk to T-5 too.

    Your idea for the Pocket Neighborhoods (PND) is fine, and I like your name for them. In fact, I just finished a calibration for a town with more rural (less intense/dense, calibrated slightly downward) T-zones than the model, where we are allowing "Infill Hamlets," basically the same thing. They would be 5-20 acres and only need T-3 and T-4, with T-2 and T-1 optional. However, it is important to plan for, and if possible map as regulatory, an area larger than that so that a complete neighborhood is made up of both the existing fabric and the new infill. See Article 4 Instructions for some language on that.

    The model SmartCode is made to be locally calibrated. If the acreage ranges aren't working, change them, but do consider regulating as much as you can around it. Your idea to allow individual property owners to choose which code to use is fine (that's what the SmartCode says at 3.1.1 - "available by Right") –– but not lot by lot. Five acres is pretty small to be the only SmartCode-regulated area surrounded by conventional zoning. DPZ's Wyndcrest is only 6 acres, is lovely, and complements the nearby commercial crossroads, but it is not contributing to a truly complete neighborhood or village. There are conventional subdivisions adjacent to it.

    Anyway, make sure to read Article 4 along with Article 3 for ideas for your PDN.

    HomerJ9139, yes, incentives are important. The best incentive is a speedier approval process. You can see this in the model SmartCode at 3.1.4. One can justify giving fully compliant SmartCode projects administrative approval by the CRC because the public process has already occurred during the calibration process for the town's new code. Note that the section is in "calibration green" text, indicating that it may be controversial and may need some customizing. But that is the ideal.

    Sandy

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,529
    Blog entries
    3
    Thanks all for your input!

    Sandy, thanks for checking in! 20 acres as a max seems about right. I'll have to check out Wyndcrest.

    Working my way though calibrating the SmartCide, this is what came to mind:

    3.3.5 Pocket neighborhood development (PND)

    a. A pocket neighborhood development (PND) is permitted in the G1 Restricted Growth sector, G2 Controlled Growth sector, the G3 Intended Growth sector, and the G4 Infill Growth sector.

    b. A PND will have an area of 3 to 20 acres.

    c. A new community plan encompassing a site of ≥20 acres cannot include a PND. It may incorporate adjacent, previously approved PNDs.


    Transect allocation:

    G1 Restricted Growth:
    T1 Natural and/or T2 Rural: 50%-70%
    T3 Suburban: 30%-50%

    G2 Controlled Growth:
    T1 Natural : as needed for conservation
    T3 Suburban: 40%-70%
    T4 Neighborhood: 30%-60%

    G3 Intended Growth:
    T1 Natural: as needed for conservation
    T4 Neighborhood: 50%-90%
    T5 Neighborhood Center: 10%-30%

    G4 Infill:
    T1 Natural: as needed for conservation
    T3 Suburban: 40%-70%
    T4 Neighborhood: 30%-60%


    20 acres might seem high for what could be called a "pocket neighborhood", but in reality, there's not many lots that are close to that size.

    Still have to get to the tables for thoroughfare standards and the like.

    Incentives will be something of an issue here, thanks in part to SEQR. The town has its own environmental review laws that are stricter than SEQR; a building or addition with more than 12,500 square feet will trigger a Type 1 action. This is a community where even sign permits are approved by the planning board. Administrative actions as incentives will be a hard sell.

    One thing about the SmartCode; I've used it before, and helped calibrate one code, but actually getting in there and editing the text, I'm finding a fair bit of inconsistent language (e.g. "in accordance with" vs "according to" vs "as shown on" vs "as prescribed by"), legalese and passive voice. I know the SmartCode is supposedly legally bulletproof, but the text is still a bit sloppy. If I don't fix those things on this end, I know it'll be ripped to shreds when it comes time for review by a committee. Many census tracts around here are in the top 20 in the country for percentages of PhDs, and they can be picky about such things.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    6

    Pocket Neighborhood and SmartCode editing issues

    Hi Dan,

    Sure, a copyeditor (as opposed to a technical editor, which is what I am, plus I was managing editor) might make all those terms the same, but since they don't change the meaning of anything, they have no effect on the legal strength of the code. And where do you get the idea that PhDs are better editors or sharper readers than the rest of us? Have you read some of that stuff?

    Since the SmartCode is a model code, it is always calibrated, revised, and edited for the individual municipality, so feel free to make them all the same for your versions. And we are always looking for volunteers to read over the codes and modules and make suggestions. I'll send your comment to the folks who are working on Version 10. The code is a living document and open source with many contributors, so we are dependent on the kindness of strangers to send feedback.

    Speaking of accuracy of meaning, you're continuing to use "transects" to refer to the zones. Again, this is a category error.

    Another edit: "Suburban" should be written "Sub-Urban" for the T3 Zone. This distinguishes it from the various forms of "suburb" out there, some of which are walkable patterns and some of which are sprawl. The hyphen emphasizes that the T3 Zone is subordinate to and dependent on the higher, more urban T-zones. (I realize that one of the older DPZ diagrams does not have the hyphen, but it should.)

    Another: Use "shall" or "shall not" every time you want something to be mandatory in the SmartCode. (You have "will" and "cannot" and so forth.)

    OK, now to your actual content. The G1 version is a single-use pod, nothing but T3 plus open lands, so I would simply use the G2 Version for both. And for the G2 Sector I would suggest allowing T1 and/or T2, not just T1. Also, not sure why you'd allow T5 in G3 but not in G4. But you're definitely on the right track. In many ways the PND really is just like the small Hamlet and Infill Hamlet we calibrated last month, or like the CLD but smaller. Great (if sloppy) minds think alike!

    If you're proposing to add it to the model code (are you?) we'd just have to make the zone names the same as the ones in the code. For calibrations, the locals usually come up with names that work for them. Caveat: Using "Neighborhood" as the name for both the Community Unit and the T4 Zone, as you've done, presents another category error. The T4 zone is actually within a complete neighborhood or a PND. How about T4 Neighborhood Fabric?

    The thoroughfare standards are already set for you, because they are correlated to the T-zones that make up the PND. I'm talking model code, not local calibration, of course.

    Cheers,
    Sandy

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,529
    Blog entries
    3
    Sandy,

    Hey, thanks for responding! An update: I gave my "Smartcode 101" presentation to our comp plan committee yesterday, and it got a very enthusiastic reception; they decided it's the direction we should go in. We're still not ready to add our town to the study list Hazel Borys maintains, but I think we'll be there soon enough.

    Quote Originally posted by Sandy Sorlien View post
    And where do you get the idea that PhDs are better editors or sharper readers than the rest of us? Have you read some of that stuff?
    Academic-style dymanics pervade day-to-day life here, including government. People here can be prone to overprocessing.

    I'll send your comment to the folks who are working on Version 10. The code is a living document and open source with many contributors, so we are dependent on the kindness of strangers to send feedback.
    Thanks! Many of my comments would be the equivalent of nitpicking, but I have to address them now before we get called on them in the review process.

    Another edit: "Suburban" should be written "Sub-Urban" for the T3 Zone. This distinguishes it from the various forms of "suburb" out there, some of which are walkable patterns and some of which are sprawl. The hyphen emphasizes that the T3 Zone is subordinate to and dependent on the higher, more urban T-zones. (I realize that one of the older DPZ diagrams does not have the hyphen, but it should.)
    I understand the rationale for that. The reason I use the hyphenless "Suburban" in T3 was to avoid the inevitable pedantry. If there's another word that would be fitting, I'd gladly use it.

    Using "Neighborhood" for "Urban" in T4 - you're right about the possibility for conflict. However, the word "urban" can be scary to some in this very eco-minded community. "Neighborhood fabric" is a good one.

    And for the G2 Sector I would suggest allowing T1 and/or T2, not just T1.
    Good point.

    Also, not sure why you'd allow T5 in G3 but not in G4.
    Most of our "infill" development consists of single family houses on ±1 acre lots, in ares that has a very exurban character; sidewalks are rare, streets have no curbs, drainage is usually by open swales, and so on. In SmartCode terms, very low-density T3, highway-style road assemblies, and common yard frontage, There's some "donut holes" in G4 areas -- parcels surrounded by such development -- but they're not that large, and none have frontage on major streets. Politically and economically, I don't think T5 just won't work in those areas.

    But you're definitely on the right track. In many ways the PND really is just like the small Hamlet and Infill Hamlet we calibrated last month, or like the CLD but smaller. Great (if sloppy) minds think alike!
    The committee really likes the idea of the PND. There was some concern that someone could take a large parcel, chop it up, and throw up several PNDs without a neighborhood center, but there's language in the conceptual draft (which the committee hasn't seen yet) to prevent it.

    3.3.5 Pocket neighborhood development (PND)

    [snip]

    c. A new community plan encompassing a site of ≥20 acres cannot include a PND. It may incorporate adjacent, previously approved PNDs.


    2.2 Sequence of growth sector determination

    [snip]

    2.2.5 Development under this code is mandatory in the G1, G2 and G3 growth sectors. Development is considered any subdivision activity that creates new lots on a lot that is ≥5 acres. Development under this code is optional, but recommended, for other sectors.


    Many communities struggle to preserve agricultural land. Here, we struggle to preserve large contiguous parcels of land that are ideal for unified development.

    Again, thanks!
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 6
    Last post: 12 Mar 2010, 10:10 PM
  2. LEED: Neighborhood Development
    Environmental Planning
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 30 Apr 2008, 7:39 AM
  3. Replies: 13
    Last post: 07 Dec 2006, 8:52 PM
  4. Community planning vs community development
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 29 Aug 2006, 2:12 PM
  5. Replies: 9
    Last post: 01 Jun 2006, 2:18 PM