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Preserving and Enhancing Communities

Preserving and Enhancing Communities: A Guide for Citizens, Planners, and Policymakers

Elisabeth M. Hamin
Priscilla Geigis
Linda Silka
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Preserving and Enhancing Communities
    Book Description:

    This book starts from the premise that each community chooses its future every day, through the incremental decisions made by planning and zoning boards and other citizen volunteers, as well as professional staff. The challenge is to ensure that these decisions support the preservation of what is special about the community, while still fostering necessary and appropriate growth. In this volume, twentynine experts from a variety of fields describe in very practical terms the "community preservation" approach to these issues. As opposed to the topdown regulatory mechanisms that are sometimes used to manage growth, the contributors favor a more flexible, locally based approach that has proven successful in Massachusetts and elsewhere. They show how residents can be empowered to become involved in local decisionmaking, building coalitions and expressing their views on a wide range of issues, such as zoning, water and land protection, transportation, historic preservation, economic diversity, affordable housing, and reuse of brownfields. When done properly, development can enhance the sense of place and provide needed homes and jobs. Done improperly, it can generate sprawl and a multitude of problems. Preserving and Enhancing Communities will be particularly useful to members of planning and other regulatory boards, as well as students of community planning. The book covers not just typical ways of doing things, but also the full spectrum of innovative and emerging practices. Each chapter includes illustrations and case studies, some from Massachusetts and many from other states. The volume concludes with a set of indicators that communities can use to track their progress in community preservation and enhancement.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-105-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. Introduction: Preserving and Enhancing Communities
    (pp. 1-6)
    Elisabeth M. Hamin, Linda Silka and Priscilla Geigis

    Guiding the growth and development of our communities in the twenty-first century will be complicated, challenging, rewarding, and necessary—just as guiding communities in the last century was. Our communities, the ways they have grown, and the ways they have stayed the same, say something about who we are as a nation. Since the founding of our country, land development has shaped our civilization. We often built communities by clustering houses and institutions of commerce around town and city centers, and these centers made our communities come alive, congregating people and bringing life to our neighborhoods. As transportation advanced, these...

  5. Section I. Gathering Perspectives and Getting Involved

    • 1 Getting Involved: Local Residents and the Planning Process
      (pp. 9-14)
      Elisabeth M. Hamin and Jeff Levine

      Community preservation and enhancement are based on the idea that it is the residents of a municipality that, through their love of place and willingness to get involved, will decide the future of each town and city. For those who have not been extensively engaged in issues of local land use, the first question likely to arise is: how do I get involved? The second question, given limited time and energy and the desire to see outcomes from one’s participation, is likely to be: how can I make my participation as effective as possible? This chapter introduces these two topics....

    • 2 Building Consensus: Coalitions for Policy Change
      (pp. 17-24)
      Kathryn Leahy and Andrea Cooper

      In our democratic society a vital public process is key to accomplishing civic goals that meet the needs of as many constituents as possible, and also the more general environmental, social, economic, and infrastructure needs of a community. While these lofty aims may seem obvious, the reality is that all too often worthy initiatives fail because the public process is not fully understood and engaged from the very beginning through to adoption and implementation of a project. Implementing significant change in a community will usually require going beyond the boundaries of what already is, and building a coalition for change....

    • 3 Diversity: Multiple Cultures Forming One Community
      (pp. 27-36)
      Linda Silka and Veronica Eady

      Most of the decisions that are made about community preservation and planning have the potential to affect a community’s diversity (e.g., in income, occupation, class, age, and family composition). Such effects often happen unwittingly because inadequate attention is being paid to the impact that decisions are likely to have on diversity. The goal of this chapter is to help communities bring the focus of diversity to their discussions so the decisions are made consciously and with foresight and so that unwanted effects on diversity are minimized. We hope to expand readers’ understanding of what represents diversity in the context of...

    • 4 Thinking Like a Developer: Partners, Adversaries, or Competitors?
      (pp. 39-52)
      Robert H. Kuehn Jr.

      There is an old saying that “95 percent of all real estate developers give the other 5 percent a bad name.” In this chapter, my task is not to apologize for the excesses of the majority or to comfort the unfairly maligned minority. Rather, my purpose is to explicate the thinking process of developers in order to more fully reveal their motivations and methods. With expanded insight, cities and towns may be able to fend off developers’ advances in the event that such an unwanted apparition appears in one of their neighborhoods. Or better yet, communities may be able to...

  6. Section II. Developing a Vision

    • 5 Comprehensive Planning: Bringing It All Together
      (pp. 55-67)
      Steve Smith, Kurt Gaertner and Glenn Garber

      The previous chapters have provided an overview of the process of getting involved in local planning as well a lot of substantive knowledge about the typical subjects that cities and towns need to address. In this next section of the book, we move beyond responsive or single-item topics, and discuss how to get municipal policy set up so that the right thing becomes easier and neighbors don’t have to gear up for a fight each time a project is proposed. Instead, the idea is to have the community’s goals and hopes for its future supported by the municipal plans and...

    • 6 Creative Zoning: Putting the Teeth in Your Planning
      (pp. 69-88)
      Jay Wickersham, Jack Wiggin and Glenn Garber

      For a local planning process to shape a community’s future, it has to be given legal teeth. Citizens and local officials need to ensure that local regulations will reflect the goals of the plan. This, in turn, requires an understanding of zoning. Zoning is the most widely used and far-reaching form of land-use regulation in the United States. Through its zoning code, a community can define where residential, commercial, or industrial and other uses are located, the scale and extent of those uses, the size and shape of buildings, parking lots, and other physical features, and related aspects of the...

    • 7 Current and Future Land Use: GIS Applied
      (pp. 91-98)
      Jane Pfister, John Hultgren, Christian Jacqz and Richard Taupier

      We all have maps in our heads. Mental maps are the way we organize and envision our communities. But most people have a hard time imagining a landscape that hasn’t yet happened. Decisions affecting the landscape are made piecemeal by both private and public entities, and changes happen incrementally and imperceptibly over time. Because of the private nature of development, most decisions are made with little connection to a shared vision of place. Geographic Information System (GIS) maps are becoming one way to address this problem. With GIS maps, the current situation on the ground can be viewed and evaluated...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
  7. Section III. Preserving Natural Resources

    • 8 Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Protection
      (pp. 101-119)
      Sharon McGregor and Jack Ahern

      Historically, biodiversity and ecosystem protection were afterthoughts in local planning (Peck 1998). This is changing with increased public awareness that diverse animal and plant populations and healthy ecosystems are integral to protecting human health and quality of life. This new recognition coincides with and may derive from the evolution of environmental protection from discrete environmental elements (water, land, air, individual species) to a systems approach (ecosystem management, watershed planning, landscape ecological planning).

      The axiom “think globally—act locally” is relevant to protecting biodiversity. With the right information and tools, a community can draft and implement plans for an ecological network...

    • 9 Watershed Planning: Securing Our Water Future
      (pp. 121-131)
      Mark P. Smith, Brian Howes and Joan Kimball

      Water is the lifeblood of our communities and our environment. It is a fundamental part of our lives, yet it is taken so much for granted that we often don’t recognize its importance and its fragility. We turn on the tap in our homes and water flows. Generally, the water is safe to drink, tastes fine, and it is always there. Many people don’t even know where the water comes from—other than from the tap. Water seems to be always available for drinking, for washing, for business, for agriculture, and for our industry. It is indispensable, yet is rarely...

    • 10 Natural Land: Preserving and Funding Open Space
      (pp. 133-150)
      Robert L. Ryan and Arthur P. Bergeron

      Communities across the country face the challenge of preserving and maintaining open space from the threat of encroaching development. For those local residents and government officials interested in protecting open space, it is essential to integrate its preservation with broader community goals, and to think of open space preservation as a “development” option like other forms of real estate development. Open space provides multiple benefits for a community including maintaining environmental quality and biodiversity, protecting drinking water supplies, preserving historic and cultural resources, providing recreational opportunities, preserving community character, and creating economic opportunities. Open space preservation is often undertaken both...

  8. Section IV. Enhancing Community Strengths

    • 11 Transportation: Linking Land Use and Mobility
      (pp. 153-165)
      Jeff Levine

      Engineers have traditionally conducted transportation planning. However, like many types of specialty planning, transportation planning is difficult to separate from other planning. Land use, environmental protection, economic development, and even housing issues interrelate with planning for the movement of goods and services.

      Yet at the same time, transportation planning is so technical that it is very difficult to incorporate these other disciplines. The challenge in transportation planning is to remember these links while still simplifying the complex web of interrelationship enough to make good recommendations to the powers that be. The challenge to the community is to make sure that...

    • 12 Housing and Community Preservation: A Home for All
      (pp. 167-181)
      Toni Coyne Hall and Linda Silka

      Housing is central to all of our lives. As Michael Stone has written:

      Housing is more than physical shelter. The residential environment consists not only of the dwelling unit but the site and setting, neighbors and community, municipality and public services, habitability and accessibility, rights and responsibilities, costs and benefits. Yet housing is even more than the residential environment, for it is only in relation to those who inhabit and use it that housing has meaning and significance—not only physical and economic, but emotional, symbolic and expressive. We occupy our houses, and, for better and for worse, they become...

    • 13 The New Economy: Thriving amidst Change
      (pp. 183-192)
      Zenia Kotval and John R. Mullin

      Communities increasingly see their economic development goal as one of attracting job-generating industrial development and face the need to develop a plan that will achieve this goal. Communities need to know a great deal to succeed at what has become a formidable task, and many have few resources to hire experienced planners to assist them. This chapter is intended to provide information to communities and others that may be embarking on just such planning. The consulting we have undertaken around the country has shown us firsthand the rapid changes that are taking place in the economy and how communities will...

  9. Section V. Keeping the Best

    • 14 Brownfields Redevelopment: Reconnecting Economy, Ecology, and Equity
      (pp. 195-205)
      Veronica Eady

      Brownfields are all around us. They pepper nearly every neighborhood in the United States. They could be the vacant lot on the edge of town. They are the abandoned textile mill near the railroad tracks. They could be the decaying gas station, the old Boys and Girls Club, they may even be the charred remains of a home a block from the elementary school. In fact, a parcel of property need only pose the mereperceptionof contamination in order to be placed in the category of rejected, unappealing, and often unsafe land we call brownfields.¹

      Though policy-makers and residents...

    • 15 Adaptive Reuse of Buildings: If It Is Already Built, Will They Come?
      (pp. 207-218)
      Robert Forrant

      New England can lay claim to being the birthplace of American industry, as the many mill buildings that dot the landscape can attest. This industrial legacy is apparent whenever an industrial smokestack or a prominent mill clock comes into view. Most New England mill complexes were extremely sturdy four- and five-story brick structures with high ceilings, enormous windows to let in natural light, and few partitions so that large looms and other machinery could easily be moved. Many had considerable parking in their interior courtyards. Yet in an economy no longer dependent on large-scale manufacturing, numerous abandoned mills, just like...

    • 16 Historic Landscape Preservation: Saving Community Character
      (pp. 221-229)
      Annaliese Bischoff

      So laments the popular songwriter from the sixties about the aftermath of insensitive development and poor planning. When my favorite radio station first played this song, I was a child living on an apple orchard soon fated to become a new parking lot for the Fine Arts Center at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. At that age I felt quite powerless over the future land-use change that would take away my childhood stomping ground. To this day visiting the parking lot on the campus in Kingston evokes haunting memories of this personal loss. However, apple orchards can still...

    • 17 Community Preservation: Residents, Municipalities, and the State Collaborating for Smarter Growth
      (pp. 231-239)
      Priscilla Geigis, Linda Silka and Elisabeth M. Hamin

      Massachusetts is widely known for its rich history, and also for its beautiful vernacular architecture and traditional town greens. Massachusetts is home to a population of 6 million people who share 5 million acres, with approximately two-thirds of that population inhabiting the eastern third of the state. But Massachusetts, like other states, is changing. Between 1950 and 1990, Massachusetts experienced a population increase of only 28 percent, yet land development increased by more than 188 percent. West of Boston, growth followed major highways, perpetuating patterns of sprawl development. In the state’s less-developed western region, rural sprawl increased as homes on...

  10. Appendix: Indicators of Community Preservation
    (pp. 241-246)
    Elisabeth M. Hamin
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 247-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-255)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 256-256)