SMART GROWTH - GROWTH MANAGEMENT PLAN - DRAFT GOALS
In early 2003, the Hunterdon County Smart Growth Land Use Committee helped draft a set of Smart Growth Goals for the new County Growth Management Plan. These draft goals underwent minor revisions by County Planning Board staff and are now being distributed to local officials for their input. Our Smart Growth Goals are intended to work toward achieving our vision. Once finalized, they will become the framework for the new Plan. All strategies and recommended actions identified in the Plan will have to be consistent with the Goals.
Promote Environmental Sustainability
Recognizing the finite capacity of our natural resources is critical so that we prevent irreversible damage to the ecosystem, threats to public health and high remedial costs. Promoting environmental sustainability means maintaining healthy watersheds. To promote environmental sustainability, we should preserve and properly manage large contiguous areas of open space, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands and farmland. We should restore and enhance sites and buildings by applying energy and resource conservation measures. We should promote walking and bicycling and reduce the length and number of daily automobile trips. All of this will help to protect our limited surface and underground drinking water supplies, support habitats including threatened and endangered plants and animals, and provide clean water and air for present and future generations.
Promote Efficient Development Patterns
Efficient development patterns conserve water, land, and energy, bring homes, jobs and shopping closer together and reduce reliance on cars. To accomplish this, new development needs to capitalize on existing infrastructure rather than “leap frogging” into the countryside. Future development should support increased transit opportunities where the infrastructure exists. Growth along our highway corridors should be clustered rather than spread out in a linear strip. Rural areas should accommodate densities and development patterns - including larger lots as well as compact communities – that protect the landscape, scenic character and open views of the countryside. Environmentally sensitive areas should support low overall densities and accommodate small, compact communities surrounded by preserved lands where they are environmentally sustainable.
Plan a Transportation System That Accommodates But Does Not Encourage Increased Traffic
Planning for the future demand on the County’s transportation system should focus on accommodating a reasonable increase in the volume of traffic while containing strategies aimed at an overall reduction in automobile and truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT) within and through the County. Reducing the rate of growth in VMTs has the benefit of deferring capacity-increasing road improvements, slowing gasoline consumption, reducing air pollution, and increasing traffic safety for the motorist, cyclist and pedestrian. At the same time, it supports the maintenance of a more rural countryside. Increasing intracounty, intercounty, and interstate transit travel in order to reduce VMTs needs to have realistic expectations, recognizing the cost of providing transit services and the destination of potential transit users. Development of commercial highway corridor plans to reduce VMTs, measures to increase bicycle and pedestrian travel and promote car or van-pooling, implementation of traffic calming (speed-reduction) techniques, and effective road and bridge design criteria are all part of any smart growth approach to transportation planning.
Maintain a Healthy, Balanced Economy
A comprehensive economic development and redevelopment planning process is critical to achieving a healthy, balanced economy. An effective planning process evaluates the need for diversity in the local economy, the positive and negative impacts of new tax ratables on development patterns and the natural environment of the community and neighboring municipalities, and the most effective ways of revitalizing downtowns in the face of continued highway commercial development. It recognizes the relationship between the larger regional economy in New Jersey and our own and the need to plan accordingly. Agriculture has traditionally been and continues to be an important economic industry in Hunterdon County. Communities must be knowledgeable about new and profitable agricultural markets so that they can provide an environment that permits farmers to participate in these markets and infrastructure that supports agricultural diversification.
Encourage Diverse Housing Opportunities
The majority of new houses built in Hunterdon County today are large, single family homes on large lots. The burden of housing costs has become so high in Hunterdon County that many people, including those who grew up and work in the County, are no longer able to afford to live here. Housing diversity should be actively pursued and integrated into existing communities. Planning strategies that encourage a variety of housing sizes, styles and price ranges should be promoted. At the same time, we should avoid affordable housing strategies that are land consumptive and out of scale with the community.
Support Community-Based Planning
A community-based planning process engages all stakeholders in the preparation and implementation of a master plan, soliciting public input, addressing public concerns, and providing the public and government officials with data and planning concepts. It places emphasis on the importance of a clearly articulated community vision within a regional context as the framework for the master plan. A carefully crafted vision created through a highly participatory process should lead to fair, predictable land use regulations and ultimately, to future development that accurately reflects community goals.
Plan for People
As we continue to develop, our communities undergo rapid change. In this environment, it takes a concerted effort to protect unique features, provide enjoyable and safe environments, and create a sense of place both for the individual and the collective community. When we plan for people, we create pedestrian linkages to connect our homes, jobs, recreation and shopping. We provide areas for social gatherings and relaxation. Streetscapes offer visual diversity and human interaction. On a broader scale, planning for people means protecting the unique built environment, historic, cultural and archeological resources and scenic natural landscape that define our communities. It means incorporating design elements historically found in the community into new development and providing a complementary and visually interesting environment.