The Planning Committee received a presentation from John David Beutler from Calthorpe Associates on new urbanism, smart growth, form-based zoning codes and environmental sustainability.
He showed images from other nations on various types of urban forms and their direct effects on how people utilize spaces. Most important, he showed images about urbanism in Maui County.
The Countywide Policy Plan, which guides Council members in decisions, describes urban sprawl as something that “occurs when rural and agricultural lands are developed into large-lot subdivisions or when new population or economic centers are built away from the existing infrastructure grid.”
A way to mitigate urban sprawl is “smart growth” – planning designed at a scale comfortable to a pedestrian, not an automobile. This was one of the principles shared by Mr. Beutler: Development needs to be at “human scale.” For example, two lanes instead of four would be better for roads in certain districts, allowing more room for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Another principle is having diversity of uses. The neighborhood, which is the key unit of new urbanism, becomes more effective with a good blend of spaces dedicated for civic, commercial and residential purposes. This includes having a park, a convenient store, a school, a church, offices, and other venues for playing, working and shopping within walking distance of residences.
Traveling from place to place is a major component in smart growth planning. More travel choices – including walking, riding a bike and using public transit – are good for the economy and the environment. Smart growth promotes the use of the streets and encourages the community to utilize foot or pedal power.
Smart-growth planning improves our quality of life by promoting health and wellness, and promotes attraction and retention for businesses.
Front Street in Lahaina was named one of 10 “Great Streets” in 2011 by the American Planning Association. Mr. Beutler showed images of Front Street and how “walkable” it is compared to streets with “islands” that clearly divide the roads. He noted that streets can unite or divide a community.
The committee was introduced to form-based codes, which ease development review by making regulations more understandable to achieve the community’s vision. The emphasis is on the physical form versus land uses.
The Countywide Policy Plan already has several provisions supporting these concepts. The Council’s next step will be turning the concepts into reality in the form of ordinances. Stay tuned.
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