Thursday, September 30, 2010

Asking for Better Edge Retail

At the edge of many small towns – and on the periphery of larger cities – you will find a landscape of single-loaded shopping centers, indoor malls, myriad parking lots, neon signs and standardized, vanilla landscaping. One town has been taking tentative steps toward altering this landscape by articulating what it wants and asking for more from retailers who want to develop and locate on Easton’s edges. Before we talk about the example of Easton or the characteristics of better edge retail, we should think about the power of this simple statement. By taking the time to articulate what it wants to be, wants from its development and wants from developers, a town is tremendously empowered to negotiate. This is not a difficult proposition – though it does require a time investment. The power to negotiate based on a clearly articulated standard should result in higher quality (though not perfect – as you can see by looking at even the best examples of standards for strip retail development) development.

Over the course of the last month, the Easton Star-Democrat newspaper has run several articles (1, 2) about the second phase of a suburban retail project on the west side of the town of Easton. The paper also ran a story this week on the debate representatives of Olive Garden restaurant had with Easton’s planning commissioners over their inability to adapt the architecture of their restaurants to Easton’s citizens’ expectations. Easton is one of a few towns on the Delmarva Peninsula with a relatively vibrant and healthy retail district at its center. The retail downtown is a tremendous draw for visitors from around the greater Chesapeake region. Easton is often featured in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and even New York Times travel sections. The built environment in Easton is a major draw for tourists and contributes to the viability of the town’s retail and tourism industries.

The characteristics we’re talking about are:
• Buildings built close to the street
• Parking on the street or behind buildings – NOT in front of buildings
• Many openings (doors and windows) on the street facade of buildings
• Narrow street section with building heights in almost 1:1 proportion to street width (the purpose of this is to create a comfortable space for people, rather than an open moving district for automobiles)
• Street trees, bike infrastructures, benches and trashcans – important street furniture for attracting people

Washington Street, Easton, Maryland

These characteristics are known by us – if not by name, at least by sight – in relation to downtown areas just like Easton’s. However, they are not – and should not be – exclusive geographically to central areas. The decision to locate development further and further from town centers is a separate issue entirely. Development – whether retail, office, residential or otherwise – could still be designed to incorporate the characteristics listed above.

The new proposal for Waterside Village in Easton sheds itself of its initial effort to incorporate some of the principles of walkable retail urbanism (see the site plan and rendering from the web site to get a sense of what I’m talking about).

Waterside Village Site Plan (Waterside Village web site)

The fact that the proposed senior apartments replace office space is a reasonable decision. Residential space over office space is preferable as it extends the hours of active use in the area. Office hours are between 8:00am and 6:00pm and are similar to retail uses. Longer hours of activity increase safety, vibrancy and longevity of the site.

According to the Star Democrat story, “the architectural design and community space that was proposed for the buildings in the Westport Commons application would remain the same” and “the Westport Commons development proposal has not been withdrawn”. This isn’t to insult the quality of the Westport Commons proposal, only to say that the decision to place the senior apartments behind the Target building should take into consideration the context of the site, and not simply be a plan for another site, moved onto this plot of land.

The Town clearly sees they are worthy of better, as the commissioners have “expressed concern that the proposal was not consistent with design aspects of the town’s comprehensive plan.” Easton’s planning commissioners – in this instance – “recommend” the applicants make two changes. (You’ll recognize the recommendations from our earlier list of characteristics of high quality retail districts – like downtown Easton.)

The two recommendations:
• Make the development truly mixed-use; change some of the retail buildings from one-story to two, by putting residential units above retail.
• Move some of the parking to the rear or sides of the buildings.

As the commission noted, the comprehensive plan “encourages” residential space above retail. The ordinances governing Easton’s built environment could better reflect the principles laid out in their comprehensive plan. However, the developer making a contribution to the built environment has a responsibility as well.

Let’s recall that the ingredients of a successful and attractive retail area as we consider the following statement: “…the developers specifically avoided that formula because it would create competition with businesses in the downtown area, where residential above retail is frequently found.” Rather than worry about competing with downtown areas, edge retail should be a complementary district that may have room for larger tenants. Edge retail can still learn from and mimic the characteristics of downtown retail districts that shoppers love.

New suburban development – incorporating the design principles of traditional downtown retail districts.

In the Easton example, the developers argue with my suggestion by saying residential uses are “inappropriate” because they are only targeting 5,000-square-foot-plus “junior box” retailers. Countless examples – and all trends – are proving this wrong. It’s working in Pittsburgh, Vancouver and in hundreds of other developments (nicely presented by CoolTown Studios here). I’m not comparing a shopping center in Vancouver to one in Easton, but if it works at a large scale, it is unlikely that at a smaller, more human scale it should be any more difficult. I am confident that the creativity exists among small town developers in Easton and elsewhere that can craft a workable coexistence of retail and residences.

Mixed-use development in Vancouver, Canada with housing above big-box development.

Plan comparing typical rear-loaded strip shopping mall with parking in front versus innovative mixed-use shopping district (Ten Principles for Reinventing American Suburban Business Districts, Urban Land Institute, 2002)

The other request of the planning commissioners was for the developers to move some of the parking to the rear or sides of the retail buildings. The applicants responded that retailers would not want to occupy a store where shoppers would have to encounter trucks, loading docks and other back-of-house functions. This ethic is more likely applied by retailers than reflected by shoppers.

Retail set into a parking garage in a new development with features of a vibrant street (Ten Principles for Reinventing American Suburban Business Districts, Urban Land Institute, 2002).

When citizens in Easton or other towns want to complain about low density strip development and fields of parking lots, they look to their leaders. The burden of local leaders is being met as they adopt design guidelines and ask these probing questions of developers. It is the responsibility of those who develop retail on the edge to recognize that these types of single-use buildings set behind parking are the opposite of innovative, creative development that our Towns are asking for and we should expect.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Agricultural Urbanism and the Eastern Shore

Earlier this week, Grist posted an article on an evolving phenomenon that goes by the name ‘Agricultural Urbanism’. If your head just cocked to the side trying to understand how that isn’t an oxymoron – you aren’t alone. That’s how I responded when I first heard the term. I also reacted with quite a bit of skepticism. Take a look with me at some images from the articles. This is what passes for some type of urbanism:

Prairie Crossing

Natural Resources Defense Council

In my next post I’ll talk about why I use the term ‘urbanism’ and why it’s relevant here. In the meantime, suffice it to say that I’m talking about the characteristics of buildings that are not only suitable for small towns, but those which characteristics of the great parts of towns that we love, right here on the Eastern Shore.

Source: ESLC

A quick look at Prairie Crossing’s site plan and photos will tell you this development would be better described as Agricultural SubUrbanism. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; ecologically and economically speaking isn’t it better to have fields of food or energy crops replacing turfgrass? Probably, but that’s a small and weak step toward integrating agriculture and urbanism without plainly sacrificing either.

By maintaining significant areas of contiguous farmland sustain a more vibrant agriculture economy. The very nature of integrating farmland into suburbia (and vice versa) takes land away from farming and contributes to less viability of the concerned farmland. Does that mean we should discourage farming that is integrated into the built environment? Not necessarily.

In theory, using in-town land for farming or building new projects with agriculture integrated simply spreads out the footprint of the town, village or city. If our goal is to have vibrant, walkable, sustainable towns, spreading out the development footprint is a no-go. A possible exception, both to the integration of agriculture into towns and the need for large tracts of rural land to sustain farming, is the high-value produce or value-added products like grapes for viticulture. Community gardens and vacant land reclamation (excellent example: GTECH Strategies’ Larimer site) are other opportunities to integrate agriculture into the town landscape.

GTECH Strategies

The question is: how? Look again at the Prairie Crossing plans. Are their true opportunities for the average resident to walk or bike to everything they need? Is there any potential to replicate this project elsewhere? Is there a wise use of the land on the site? Compare this to a recent proposal from Charlottesville-area planner Daniel Nairn. Daniel has drafted up a ‘model block’ for Agricultural Urbanism. It might not work in every community – it was designed for a Richmond, Virginia neighborhood – but elements are not at all dissimilar from blocks in Cambridge, Denton, Easton, Chestertown and elsewhere.

Discovering Urbanism

Let’s think for a moment about why this block might have applicable lessons for Agricultural Urbanism on the Eastern Shore.

Street Wall

There is both a presumption and a legal framework that reinforce huge and unnecessary setbacks for buildings. These setbacks provide no benefits for human safety or welfare and only serve to erode the quality of streets as public spaces. Daniel’s block keeps buildings relatively close to the street (even with small front yards). This is a condition that exists in the heart of virtually every single town on the Eastern Shore from Betterton to Vienna.

Mixed Use

Mixed use does not mean having one huge swath of an enormous development devoted to commercial and another swath devoted to residential use (look again at the Prairie Crossing site plan). This does nothing more than encourage short-distance driving. Daniel’s proposal includes a corner market on the block (retail) and the integration of agriculture provides the opportunity for jobs within the block.

Use of Ancillary Space

Rather than use the block interior simply for parking or recreational space, Daniel proposes the block interior be primarily (and significantly) devoted to crops. There is little wasted space. As one commenter on Daniel’s post notes – an alleyway or structure for alleyways would be a nice addition, but I think there are obvious ways an alley could be integrated.


One of the issues I have with the block – for its application here – is the block size. The dimensions aren’t articulated in the post, but if we imagine that the block is something like 600’ x 600’, I would think a rectangular block (say 600’ x 300’ might be better suited to an Eastern Shore town – and to walkability. That said, it is the size of the block’s interior that makes it so potentially successful as a model of urban agriculture.

Building Height

At 3 stories, the tallest building in this block would be short or comfortable in any town on the Eastern Shore – with very few exceptions. The employment of architectural details that draw from the local vernacular would make the building even more likely to fit in.


This proposal offers 15 dwelling units per acre – which could easily be increased or decreased with any number of design adaptations. If, for example, the yellow or red (presumably brick) houses depicted in Daniel’s block were to replace the gray-blue apartments, the density would drop to 9 dwelling units per acre. That density might be more appropriate for smaller towns like Queen Anne or Millington.

The potential applicability for our towns is very interesting. Obviously, agriculture must not be a gimmick used to sell an unwalkable, unlivable places, but that where strategically implemented, Agricultural Urbanism on the Eastern Shore should be both comprised of productive agriculture and real urbanism.

For a more in-depth analysis of this proposal, check out Daniel’s web site or NRDC’s Kaid Benfield’s (always insightful) analysis here.

Jake Day is Town Planning Manager at Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He plans to be a regular contributor to ESLC’s blog on design, development, community and towns.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Choptank Route?

ESLC has been following the latest developments with the MAPP project very closely (see below for our latest update.)
What do you think?

The Choptank Route; a different option with the same questions

Most of you are aware of Pepco Holding INC's. (PHI) recent announcement of a the Choptank Route - their proposed route through Dorchester County. The Choptank Route entails bringing the high voltage transmission lines underwater across the Bay, continuing up the Choptank River, coming on land north of the Cambridge Hyatt Regency and continuing over land into Vienna. PHI applauds the route selection and is in the process of gaining support for the new route - but many of the same questions remain unanswered.

Has the Need Been Established?

PHI has not established the need for the overall MAPP Project as the process remains in suspension at the state level. This suspension was at the request of the utility company with the understanding that the project would be revisited when studies were released about overall energy consumption and demand. Locally, many people do not realize the project is in suspension because of the continued efforts to secure rights of way and numerous presentations to gain support for the project. A statement such as "The power could go out by 2014" doesn't facilitate understanding the project or the address overall need for the MAPP project. The Office of People's Council, a Maryland State Agency that represents the utility rate payers of Maryland, called these types of tactics fear mongering.

Will this disrupt aquatic life in the Choptank River?
We don't know!

What are the environmental impacts of the Choptank Route? PHI has actively promoted the oyster studies they have completed and how the high voltage lines will not disturb historic or current oyster beds but fails to address other aquatic life that resides in the Chesapeake Bay or the Choptank River. There are more valuable resources in the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay beyond oyster beds and how they will be affected must be addressed.

Is this Going To Impact MY Wallet?
YES! Even if the transmission line never breaks ground!

The original price tag for the project was 1.2 billion dollars, however the new Choptank Route could cost an additional $100-200 million dollars. Who will pay these costs? You, the consumer will. This project also has a 12.8% interest rate of return - that is for every dollar spent PHI will get that dollar back plus 12.8%. PHI has already spent over 4 million dollars to purchase properties in Dorchester County alone. All of which you, the consumer, will ultimately pay for.

There are too many unanswered questions to simply accept the Choptank River route as the right option to the MAPP line. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy will continue to ask questions about the environmental impacts, push for the highest levels of fiscal responsibility, and work at the state, regional and local levels to better understand the need for this project. Please don't stop asking questions and demanding the highest level of transparency for the process and answers to your questions.

Remember to flip the switch! You are the first step to energy conservation and it makes a difference!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Live Blog Feed: ESLC Annual Planning Conference

Keynote Speaker: Ken Snyder, Place Matters

The Art and Science of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement Tools and Techniques

-Information and Communication
-GIS Modeling and Impact Analysis
-Public Process and Civic Engagement

Principles of Successful Public Participation

Inclusive. . . . . . .. . ... .. . . .Ownership
Community . . . .. . . . . . . . .Driven legitimacy
Transparent. . . . . . . . . . .. .Trust
Carefully Designed.. . . . . . .Accessible, Safe, and Fun
Intuitive and Informed. . . . . Realistic Outcomes
Lead to Implementation. . .. Affecting Present and Future Decisions

Ken is now talking about using the right set of tools and techniques that help communities. A key word here is visualizing. Snyder talks about quantifying impact. When will you hit build out? What are our short-term and long-term infrastructure needs? Integration is another key tool when helping communities. How do issues like housing, economic development, the environment, and transportation needs overlap? Create is another key word for Ken. What do we uniquely create as a whole as a result of planning the future of our community? Lastly, Ken talks about having fun--simply stated: make the process fun!

Civic engagement in the 21st century must incorporate technology such as Twitter, Facebook, and a website. Connect with people also using SketchUp and GoogleEarth--both excellent tools for community planning. Use 3-D visualization to show what a community could look like. Present "futuristic world" type solutions.

Box City: What's that? Build replicas of what you want to keep in your community or map out a realistic model version of what your town/city actually looks like--no matter how depressing.

Use cameras on cell phones in community planning exercises. Send people out to take pictures in their community.

Anatomy of A Town Meeting: 1) Coordinator, 2) Lead Facilitator, 3) Table Captain, 4) Tech Support, 5) Free Lunch, 6) Networked Computers, and 7) Keypads

Keypad polling can be used as a means of collecting information during a meeting in an honest, anonymous way.

For Vision Utah, citizens engaged in dot exercises. The dot exercises literally meant people dotting out and identifying different areas of concern, answering questions like: where are the jobs in our community? where are the schools? where will future growth go? where are problem areas for our community? where are bright spots in our community? where will new people live in our community?

Touch table technologies (just think of an iPhone the size of a table). Ken says why not have several in a room where everyone has a city map, then they can zoom into their specific community area to think about local planning issues.

Touch table technology used in community land use planning:

Use Google Wave in community planning to discuss issues and follow lines of thought. Snyder says Google Wave must be improved in the future to be more community friendly, but nonetheless is a cool online tool for communication, discussion, and engagement.

Live Blog Feed: ESLC Annual Planning Conference

What's Next, East New Market?

place work[s]hop with Jake Day

We believe that place works, place works as a strategy. Believing in small towns is a strategy of upmost importance on the Eastern Shore. We want to engage in a workshop process. Our work is never finished, it is a process. Placework[s]hop is a Eastern Shore community design workshop to envision the future of our special towns. The first Placework[s]hop was held in fall 2009 in East New Market, Md. East New Market received a Streetscape grant from SHA, but they also face major problems related to community character.

The first step was to research East New Market before the workshop. The second was to engage people in the process. We asked people to take pictures. We gave several people in town disposable cameras. We wanted them to take the first half of the roll on good things about East New Market and the second half on what needs to be improved. We ended up with 1500 pictures of this 150-160 person population town. The pictures were categorized. Important questions arose from the pictures: how do we preserve our rural character and agricultural landscapes? What do we do about these subdivisions that have sprout up? Seven pictures were on an intersection in a traditional development where the development ended, with nothing but road extending into a field.

After pictures were compiled sessions were scheduled to bring in the community to get feedback and to spur discussion on the pictures and the important themes that the pictures raised.

A 2-day (Friday night/Saturday night) community design retreat was scheduled at the fire department. We went to community events to network and have a presence with the community. We had a team of block captains who met with ESLC staff bi-weekly to talk about the development of the project. Together the block captain team got the word out to the community word on upcoming workshop meetings and planning sessions.

Unexpected Outcomes of the Community Workshop: Through this process it was highlighted that nothing was protecting the character of the African American community in town. Many felt that expansion of the town historic district or creation of new one was needed to protect the integrity of the African American community.

The objective and goal of this exercise was to assist the town of East New Market in making a plan for their community's future. ESLC had no agenda for making the plan for the town, the objective was to help facilitate the plan making process. By creating a process that work you come out with a better plan. Providing the community the ability to communicate and discuss in a comprehensive and honest way allows for real issues to be addressed that in other community involvement processes would not have been on the radar screen.

Live Blog Feed: ESLC Annual Planning Conference

Process and Participation in Community Planning

Anne Fitzgerald-Pittman, Field Organizer
Maryland League of Conservation Voters

What is your goal?

This step is often overlooked in processes. We need goals to define success, to know if what we want to do is achievable, to make sure that we are all on the same page, and to drive our work efficiently.

Goals must be achievable and specific. You can have overall goals and short-term goals. All must be integrated into one vision. Involve the key players in the process.

When establishing plans with goals do the following. . . .

#1 Work Backwards
#2 Be Flexible
#3 Be Responsive

It is also important for you to figure out what your message is. What message will most get the citizens in my town to take action on this issue or to at least be informed and engaged?

A message is a short statement that lays out exactly what you want citizens and decision makers to think of when they think of your issue.

Who do you need in the room?
-civic leaders
-agency officials
-community members

How do you get them in the room? Use targeted recruitment by directly contacting the person you want at the meeting. Mass recruitment is contact one person who will then contact several others.

You must ask people, don't just let them know about a meeting. Follow up with them and make sure that they know that you really want them there.

Quick tip: The community land fill or dump may be the place you take your trash, but it is also a great place to connect with people. In a couple Saturdays you could make contact with 1000s of people in your small community.

Public speaking is important. When you speak be sure to introduce yourself, state the problem, present the solution, emphasize the urgency, give the call to action. Here is a quote for thought: "Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated."-Abraham Lincoln

When speaking in public: practice out loud, keep it simple, engage people, pace yourself, memorize it, and be yourself. Anne says to "Think about your messengers and much as your messages."
Contact Anne at

Live Blog Feed: ESLC Annual Planning Conference

Panel Discussion: "Getting Good Growth"

Overcoming Barriers to Infill, Compact Growth and Complete Streets

Please remember to refresh your browser to see new content on our live feed. Also, if you have comments or questions for the panelists please leave a comment and we will get your question to the floor.

10:53a.m.-Welcome to our next segment at ESLC's 11th Annual Planning Conference. We are getting ready to start our next panel discussion in the next couple minutes. Stay tuned.

11:00a.m.-The panelists are:

Richard E. Hall, AICP, Secretary, Maryland Department of Planning
Joann Genova, Developer
Nicole Lacoste Folks, Esq, AICP, Black Dog Law LLC
Margo Bailey, Mayor, Town of Chestertown
Jon Arason, AICP, Director, City of Annapolis Planning & Zoning Dept.

11:06a.m.-Ok, we are underway again here at the conference. Secretary Richard Hall is introducing the panelists right now.

11:10a.m.-Jon Arason is taking the floor now to talk about community and character in infill design. Most cities and towns are experiencing new development on land annexed and infill development. It is important that all development is representative of the core values of the city. Jon will talk mainly on context-sensitive infill.

Annapolis Comp Plan quote: "The city's growth and economic vitality does not depend on the outward expansion of its borders." Arason says he always tried to annex as much as possible to allow for Annapolis growth, but now he must accept that Annapolis will not annex further. Now the focus turns to infill. Annapolis has had traditional neighborhoods from traditional rigid zoning for too long, now the need is for flexible zoning. The majority of the zoning in Annapolis is currently R2.

Rigid zoning ordinances with mandatory setbacks, etc. limit the success of infill projects.

11:16a.m.-Infill Development Example: A bank wanted to build in a residential neighborhood. Arason told the architect that if the bank wanted to preserve the existing building on site to make it a bank they could all meet the next day, if the plan was to tear down the existing building and build a new big box building--Arason would meet with them in 6 months.

Arason and the Annapolis Planning Department has asked developers to do context studies with regard to infill projects to take into account community character. They were able to preserve a 1907 hospital building in downtown Annapolis.

The pendulum seems to be swinging back toward 'streamlined' development. Political support lagging for good design. It is important to understand those elements that distinguish your jurisdiction, not sacrifice quality for the sake of development.

11:21a.m.-Arason continues. . . .
Someday the economy will improve and you want to ensure tha you remain competitive based on your unique assets. Don't sell out character in the long-term for short-term goals.
11:23a.m.-Richard Hall now takes the podium again commenting on an Annapolis project that was incredibly walkable in its site design. Hall commends Arason and Annapolis for such a project.

11:24a.m.-Nicole Folks is at the podium now to speak. This is her 3rd year at ESLC's APC. Nicole comments on how we need to have developers in the audience to hear the good things we are talking about. Folks is a land use attorney working in the MD area. Folks' clients are small business owners, land developers, lenders, charter schools, and homebuilders. Nicole says that in the past everything was focused on greenfields development: find new land, make a plan, get it passed. But now things are changing. . . . . . thus the topic of her lecture today--promoting infill development.

11:28a.m.-Folks comments,
If attractive financing and incentives are made available developers will come--but make sure your comprehensive plan is current first.
She offers the 'carrot and stick approach' to promoting infill development from the private sector perspective.

What are some factors developers look at while shopping for land?

-land values
-population base
-employment and/or academic centers
-energy & gas prices
-public transportation options

11:31a.m.-Nicole says, "Show me the Money!" Banks are not lending like they did in the past right now. Developers must have in hand: 1) strong and balanced pro forma, 2) good relationships with lenders, 3) forward looking market studies, and 4) doesn't hurt to have lots of cash in hand. Market studies are very important during this economic climate. Banks are looking at market studies a lot more given the economy.

HUD is the biggest lender right now for developers given the fact that banks are not lending.

Time is money. Expedited permit and plan approval processes are great tools to use to incentivize the right kinds of development projects. Waivers are also useful especially with regard to parking. Baltimore City code allows long-term lease agreements with other parking providers within 300 yards of the site. Parking is not required on-site in Baltimore City.

11:36a.m.-Carsharing is being used by a developer to try to provide an adequate alternative parking arrangement for an infill development in Baltimore City. Nicole's client is actually purchasing cars to provide carsharing for his site.

Arts and Entertainment Districts are big in Baltimore City as well. If development will encourage arts and entertainment in the district, developers are given carrots. Incentives are also in place for TOD. Baltimore also has recently implemented one of the most restrictive 'Green Building' laws in the country. Baltimore City put in place fast-track approval incentives for developers who choose to 'build green.' Nicole has a client now who has chosen that route.

Another big issue with regard to supporting more infill development is stormwater management regulations. At times such regulations can serve as huge hurdles to infill proposals.

11:41a.m.-Joann Genova is now at the podium. She is a local developer and will talk a little bit about some of her recent projects. Talking about what a development is and what it isn't. Genova says, "It is about the people who use it and its surrounding community." Joann mentions an adaptive use project on North Harrison Street in Easton, Md. The land owners wanted to do a retrofit of an old, historic downtown house. They met various hurdles throughout the process that make the project somewhat of a "budget buster," but the project did succeed and will soon be featured as one of Easton's historic restoration houses.

11:50a.m.-Joann is now talking about an Easton project on Aurora Street. This was an infill project with double density requested. It is a residential strip that would have fit well with the downtown feel of Easton. The project had approval from the Easton Planning department and the variance committee. The density application was denied after a neighborhood association complained that the project would be blocking view of adjacent property. The association was also opposed to higher density. They feared establishing a poor precedent (allowing higher density). So the project died. The key question is how do we garner public support for downtown infill projects? How can public engagement and education be improved?

11:55a.m.-Joann is offering practical advice from a development point of view.
- Know what you are getting into, don't assume you are being told everything. Ask the tough questions.
- Hire architects and builders that are familiar with local codes currently being used. Plans/specifications should address ADA and Fire Codes clearly. Assumptions cause problems and delays.
- Hire your own contractors to do soft testing, building inspections, etc. They work for you. Never use reports from previous owners.
-These simple common sense steps will help keep costs down, keep delays to a minimum, etc.

12:09p.m.-Margo Bailey is speaking now about her town's experience with development. They as well as many other on the Eastern Shore are not afraid to say no when a development proposal is not up to par.

Margo ends with: "We have a chance in Chestertown to do something that reflects us now and we want it done now!"

And a quote from Ed McMahon, a well known smart growth advocate "You get what you ask for!"
12:14 p.m.-Richard Hall is now facilitating discussion on questions from attendees.

12:22 p.m.-Margo Bailey is emphasizing the importance of joint planning with county government. As mayor in Chestertown she feels that the town and county are on the same page in terms of growth objectives, smart growth, vision, long-term plans, etc.

Live Blog Feed: ESLC Annual Planning Conference

Introductions, MDP Sec. Richard Hall Speech, and Jess Zimbabwe Lecture

Welcome! Please watch this post for updates on the conference throughout the day. We will be starting the conference within the next 10 minutes!

Be sure to reload this blog website periodically to get new posts and additions to this post at the end!

9:11a.m.-We haven't started yet, but everyone is filing into the auditorium. We have approximately 100 people here currently.

9:14a.m.-Rob Etgen is giving introductory comments right now. He notes that this is ESLC's 20th anniversary. "This is going to be a big year for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy," says Rob Etgen. Rob thanks the sponsors of the event that many such as the Maryland Department of Planning, WILMAPCO, Shared Earth, AIA, and many others. Rob is talking about the theme of the conference today "About Town" and how that integrates with the multifaceted approach ESLC has regarding land conservation. ESLC supports downtown development in and around our towns.

9:21a.m.-Jake Day takes the stage now, thanking everyone for coming given the bad weather. Jake is thanking the staff at ESLC and sponsors for their work on this event. Jake explains that Jess Zimbabwe will lead off the conference and how later a panel will talk about "Getting Growth Good." The panel will include a mayor, local planner, and Secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning, Richard Hall, AICP.

9:30a.m.-MDP Secretary Richard Hall, AICP, is speaking now about LEED work and how we need to continue to develop that in Maryland. He mentions an NPR story on LEED scoring systems in California. Hall and MDP are proposing two bills this session in Annapolis: 1) creation of a Sustainable Growth Commission and 2) Sustainable Communities Tax Credit legislation. The tax credit legislation is to expand the program to assist in MD transit-oriented development, BRAC development, etc. Secretary Hall points out at least 8 state planners in attendance who came to the conference today.

9:36a.m.-Hall is commenting on HB 1141 currently and its importance to the state of Maryland and the Eastern Shore. The Secretary is now introducing Jess Zimbabwe. Here is a YouTube video of Jess:

9:45a.m.-Jess is talking about "The Role of Public Officials in Preserving Community Character." Jess mentions an article on planning and politics. The article proposes that politics should be taken out of planning, but Jess says political planning is natural. It's ok. One cannot necessarily separate politics from planning even if one wanted to, but the solution is better politics.

9:48a.m.-Jess mentions Joseph P. Riley, Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina as a kind of public official who gets it. Downtown Charleston was not always the beautiful place we see it as today. Jess explains that Riley found political, community, and financial will to spearhead redevelopment projects in Charleston.

9:50a.m.-Jess is talking about the Mayor's Institute on City Design and her experience working with cities around the country on redevelopment programs as well as transit-oriented development projects.

9:55a.m.-She does workshops for public officials to implement stable development in communities. Jess highlights national trends that apply to the Eastern Shore:

-There is little planning assistance available to most small communities.
-The natural resources and beauty of prime rural areas continue to drive development pressures from retirees, second home buyers, and long-distance commuters.
-Municipal revenue structures make communities overly reliant upon sales taxes and increased residential growth to deliver services.

9:59a.m.-Jess is talking about leadership. She explains adaptive leadership as leadership that is not influencing a community to follow your lead, but influencing a community to face their adaptive challenges.

10:01a.m.-Jess's 5 Expected Behaviors for Public Officials

1) Be choosy about development

Take a long-term approach to development, not a short-term approach. Don't be afraid to say no, but take the lead when you have a great opportunity.

2) Sweat the Small Stuff

Mayor Riley in Charleston, SC, in his travels across the country, took gravel samples from different places when thinking about what his city would use when putting in a water front gravel walk for residents as part of a community redevelopment project.

3) Work across boundaries

Work with towns and regional bodies because what happens next to you--impacts you.

4) Engage the Community

Make it clear that growth is going to occur in the community, but that it can happen in a way where everybody wins. Don't take a no-growth mentality, engage in the community planning effort to do the hard work necessary to make a better future for your town.

5) Insist upon a high quality public realm

10:08a.m.-Jess on the role of organizers in preserving community character. She has two tools here. Organizers are leading without natural authority, so how do they make up the gap? MLK in the civil rights movement specifically chose Selma for demonstration because of its potential for receiving national media attention.

Tool #1 Example: Transit Alliance Citizens' Academy (TACA)

Denver went full-steam ahead on TOD and transit investment and citizens were to some extent blindsided. TACA was formed to address regional-scale concerns about new TOD. Renters, homeowners, and small, local businesses had concerns about how gentrification and construction would impact their life in the area.

Tool #2 Example: Greenbelt Alliance (GA)

This group started much like the ESLC did. In 1987, GA changed focus to affordable housing as a way to prevent sprawl. People were moving out of the San Francisco Bay area for cheaper housing in the suburbs. They worked on infill, compact development programs. They do development endorsements and send people to attend hearings to speak on development proposals. They have Compact Development Endorsemnt Guidelines that include compactness, affordability, pedestrian facilities, transportation choice, green building, environmental considerations, community input, land preservation, sustainable parking, etc.

The GA has endorsed various developments in their area over the years creating a database of community development information useful to citizens.

10:10a.m.-Jess Zimbabwe finishes and asks for questions. Contact Jess at or via phone at 202-624-7038.

Audience asks about how to work with local government officials and multiple jurisdictions. What success strategies ought we use? Jess says in Minneapolis-St. Paul region has a revenue sharing model for new development where municipalities share revenues from new development and work together on project management. She says regional governmental cooperation is very important.