About Community Design

About Community Design

The term community design describes a planning process, as well as specific planning goals. As a planning process, community design describes the collaboration of different interests within a community towards a common vision. A community's vision includes a detailed description of where the citizens want to be in the not too distant future, generally 10 to 25 years. It is an expression of the hopes and values of the community's residents, and is designed to provide focus and direction for future planning efforts.

As with the planning process, the term community design describes planning goals that draw upon multiple fields of expertise in an effort to create more attractive, livable communities. Community design is a multi-disciplinary approach to planning and design, which includes the fields of planning, architecture, landscape architecture and sociology.

Community Design Goals

  • Character: A place with a unique image or identity
  • Legibility: A place that can be easily navigated and understood
  • Diversity: A place that can be enjoyed by a variety of people and includes and/or is linked to places with a variety of functions
  • Preservation: A place that includes the preservation of natural, cultural and historic resources
  • People Oriented: A place that accommodates a variety of human and social functions, including walking, socializing, playing, working and living
  • Mobility: A place that allows an ease of mobility for motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians
  • Safety: A place that is a non-threatening environment for residents and visitors

Common Misconceptions

  • Community design does not promote one style of building over another
  • Community design does not discourage new development
  • Community design is not another layer of land use regulations

Successful Community Design

  • Collaborative Efforts: A planning process that involves the community, landowners and local officials
  • Design Guidelines: Planning documents that include creative and objective design guidelines in the municipality's land use ordinance
  • Practical Applications: Planning that is cognizant of land economics and marketing conditions
  • Uniqueness: Planning tailored to the unique qualities of the community
  • Imagination: A planning process that uses the community's imagination to spur new ideas
  • Comprehensive Planning: An inclusive planning process that involves municipal officials, residents and business owners

Hunterdon County & Community Design

The Hunterdon County Planning Board provides assistance to local officials and County residents on community design issues through local workshops, seminars and information sharing. Other projects include the Hunterdon County Annual Planning and Design Awards Program, which recognizes outstanding planning and design projects throughout the County. Additionally, the County Planning Board's Growth Management Plan includes a community design element based upon public input received during Vision21, the visioning phase of the plan.

Community Design Handbook (Preserving Community Character)

In New Jersey, municipalities may include community design plans in their master plan and land use ordinances. A Community Design Element in the master plan provides the necessary vision that a community needs for a comprehensive community design program. Land use ordinances may then be adopted to implement the vision.

The Hunterdon County Planning Board has outlined a step by step community design process in its publication, "Preserving Community Character in Hunterdon County: A Community Design Handbook" (PDF). The Handbook was prepared in response to concerns expressed by local officials and County residents that new development in the County has been undermining the character of their communities. The Handbook provides guidance for establishing objective and predictable design standards, emphasizing that with such standards a community can work successfully with developers to achieve their land use goals.