Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop Papers
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The 1980s brought unprecedented growth and change to many southern communities. Consequently, in many places an entirely new set of public policy challenges relating to the quality of southern communities, lives, and landscapes became increasingly important. Victoria Tschienkel, former secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Regulation has aptly described the state's endemic problem with poorly managed growth:

"I think that we can probably take care of pollution-related problems in the state but it's going to be tough... Even if we do that I'm not sure that this is going to be a very nice place to live, because of the densities of the population and lack of sense of community. Florida could end up as just one convenience store after another. If we can't come up with an image of what this state should be, we can protect the environment, but will we still be glad to live here?" [2]

Growth management offers promising solutions both to environmental threats and to the concerns raised by Tschienkel, but can communities today really afford to protect historic buildings, open space, and other amenities, while simultaneously taking other measures to ensure that new growth protects local distinctiveness?

Given the economic outlook, there is mounting evidence that communities can not afford not to. More communities now realize that viable economic development strategies—such as retaining existing "footloose" industry, attracting high-growth industries and professional services, and attracting tourists or retires—require developing a superior local environment and quality of life.

Research into business setting decisions shows that a community's livability, attractiveness, and quality of life are important factors in retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones. This is particularly true of the most dynamic sectors of the economy—such as health care, electronics, and professional services—and of small entrepreneurial firms responsible for much recent job creation. Factors vary widely from industry to industry, but a 1981 study concludes that the third most important factor (after labor, climate, and proximity to markets) in setting decisions is an area's attractiveness to managers and engineers. For 35 percent of the firms surveyed, a community's livability—including such factors as a good educational system and recreation and cultural facilities—was a critical factor. It was most important to firms employing high percentages of white-collar workers. [3]

David Birch's 1987 publication Job Creation in America analyzes over 5.5 million firms and concludes that high cost and high tax areas exhibit the greatest growth. He concludes that what he calls high-innovation firms are creating most of the growth in the American economy, so it makes sense for communities to concentrate upon their development. Innovation depends primarily on "brains," not cheap land or labor. The key to attracting highly skilled professionals is to offer high quality, not low cost. Innovation-based companies will, in general, settle or remain in an environment that bright, creative people find attractive. Birch concludes that cost is not an absolute measure; it is relative to the quality of the people and environment that it provides. A high-cost area that attracts the best and the brightest through desirable amenities will, in general, do much better than a low-cost place that offers much less. [4]

Birch lists local quality of life as one of five critical factors for small innovative firms which he calls the key to job creation. The others are education, quality of labor, quality of government, and telecommunications.

Quality of life factors that can be influenced by local land use policy decisions include a clean environment, vibrant down-towns, low levels of traffic congestion, opportunities for outdoor recreation, scenic drives, and attractive community design. Additional factors that are not directly related to land use policy include quality schools, spectator sports, and recreational and cultural facilities.

Boulder, Colorado offers an interesting example of the long-term economic and environmental benefits of good local land use planning and conservation. Says Jim Crain, director of the Office of Real Estate and Open Space for Boulder, "When US West was looking for a new location, other communities being considered offered them every incentive imaginable, but when the ribbon on their new facility was cut, they said it was the amenities that Boulder had to offer that drew them here." [5] Boulder's long leadership in open space protection—the city has acquired some 22,000 acres in the past and quality 20 years to create a greenbelt park surrounding the city—paid off in helping the city to attract a premier factors research and development investment.

More communities are realizing the businesses advantages of protecting the local environment and quality of life while promoting beneficial development, but most still need to know what it takes to make such development happen. Seeking to provide those answers. The Conservation Foundation nonprofit organization founded in 1948 that has long been involved in state and local land use issues—has investigated a diverse set of communities whose efforts to protect and enhance livability have been successful. The most noteworthy lesson is that intangible factors, rather than reliance upon any specific land use mechanisms or techniques, are the hallmark of successful communities.


The Conservation Foundation identified seven factors, which, in various combinations, tend to distinguish communities where people are taking imaginative steps to create a superior local quality of life, while protecting distinctive natural and cultural assets.

1. Build Land Use Policies Around Distinctive Local Assets.

These assets may be unlikely or hard to find. Identifying distinctive assets—historic buildings, waterfronts, public waterways, scenic views, distinctive vegetation, pastoral landscapes—and designing local land use policies around them is the basis for many successful and far-reaching local efforts.

In Sanibel Island, Florida, off the coast of Fort Myers, the community emphasizes protecting the island's natural vegetation and wildlife habitat. Today, the city reviews each site plan and advises developers on how to avoid destroying natural vegetation. If indigenous species and natural vegetation are destroyed in the development process, they must be replaced or compensated for elsewhere on the site. A local private non-profit organization, The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, runs a native plant nursery which supplies plants to developers and home-owners for landscaping or revegetating damaged sites. As a result, Sanibel is one of the most biologically intact, attractive and economically healthy communities on the Florida coast.

Obviously, not every community has spectacular natural assets. Nearly all, however, have some asset often unnoticed—that can make the community distinctive.

In Butte, Montana the community has focused on an unlikely asset—the relic copper mining and smelting industry. This industry declined, and left Butte economically spent and environmentally degraded. In 1982, the Butte Historical Society conceived the idea of revitalizing the area's economy by preserving and building on the local mining heritage. Today this mining heritage is the foundation of the community's innovative revitalization efforts. This locally driven program has created an integrated system of historical and natural parks, conversion of spent sites into community facilities, reclamation of degraded landscapes, and a program to educate visitors about the community's rich historic and natural resources. This would never have happened without the focus on the area's unexpectedly marketable asset.

Beaumont, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama have used similar strategies to build upon their historic roles in the oil and steel industries.

2. Build Land Use Policies Around a Positive, Shared Vision.

By focusing on a vision with popular appeal, communities have converted public frustration and polarization into enthusiasm for protecting and capitalizing on local assets. The principal shortcoming in many communities is that local land use policy simply reacts to external events and proposals, rather than furthering any defined vision or plan. People will often get excited—and stay excited—about an appealing vision of the future of the community. If that vision—the goal—stays out front, the necessary regulations and spending decisions will more likely fall into place.

Developer Jim Rouse has captured the benefit of a clear vision: "The most important thing we have yet to learn is that there is so much more we can do about creating successful communities and successful lives for the people of our country than we attempt to do. We continually fall short of the possible that is out there in front of us because we envisage so little as possible. We are always undershooting in what we believe it is possible to do. We continually lose power, energy, and achievement by setting our goals too low, by planning in too little quantities." [6]

San Antonio, Texas, has enhanced its urban environment and contributed substantially to downtown revitalization by creating and implementing a vision around a small river that at one time was to be paved over. When the San Antonio River flooded downtown San Antonio in the mid-1920s, proposals were made to control the river by burying it under concrete. However, a young architect had a vision of the river as a beautiful canal lined by trees, a walkway, shops, and art galleries. He persuaded local officials and the business community that the river could be a great asset to the city. It took over 30 years, but today the Riverwalk is something of an organic Tex-Mex Festival market—a cool green oasis in the middle of downtown. It is now the focal point of the city's substantial convention and tourism trade and the leading tourist destination in Texas. It encourages activity and investment downtown, and is a focal point for historic preservation and downtown revitalization efforts.

Near Boston, the Massachusetts town of Lowell used a vision of a revitalized downtown based upon an unlikely asset—abandoned textile factories—to spur a downtown renaissance and to provide a focus for local conservation efforts. In the late 1800s Lowell was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. But in this century, Lowell declined as industry moved south. Buildings were abandoned; unemployment skyrocketed in the 1960s and 1970s.

While Lowell's prospects seemed grim, the community identified its assets, defined what was unique about them, and created a vision of Lowell as proud of its industrial heritage. The local government restricted the demolition of old buildings and set guidelines for renovation. Today, the downtown contains buildings converted into museums, senior citizen housing, and new hotels. What is interesting about Lowell is that this economic rebirth occurred downtown, where people could afford to live, where buildings were already built and infrastructure already in place, and where people could walk.

3. Attend to Environmental, Quality of Life, and Aesthetic Concerns.

For decades, communities have sought to create success through economic development and environmental planning measures. Local governments have zoned to separate incompatible uses and protect property values. They have provided tax incentives and subsidies to attract new businesses. They have worked to ensure that sewage facilities are adequate and that new construction avoids flood plains and other hazardous or unsuitable areas. But communities are now coming to realize that these activities are not enough. They are paying closer attention to quality of life factor-building design, protecting trees and other vegetation as development occurs, and improving billboards and signs. Protecting natural vegetation has received particular attention.

Business interests increasingly recognize the connection between an attractive community and a healthy business climate. In Columbia, South Carolina, the Chamber of Commerce has proposed and promoted a model local ordinance to reduce roadside clutter and better control the appearance of on-premise advertising signs. In Houston, Texas, the Chamber of Commerce spear-headed recent efforts to control the proliferation of billboards. In Tallahassee, Florida, private and governmental land use initiatives revolve around protecting the city's distinctive canopy roads-roads lined by mature trees—as the city's "natural signature."

Leaders in other states and localities have realized that nothing is gained by ignoring environmental and quality of life factors. Baton Rouge, Louisiana offers a telling example. Two major petrochemical companies recently rejected potential sites for substantial new investments in Baton Rouge due to unacceptable local environmental conditions. In response, the mayor moved to create a municipal environmental monitoring agency. As Paul Templet, the secretary of Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality lamented shortly after the decision: "The mistakes of the past are coming back to haunt us, and the environmental costs will be paid. You pay them on the front end by good environmental management, or you pay them on the back end." [7]

4. Go Beyond Regulations to Secure Quality Development and Protect Local Resources.

Regulations are but one tool in the toolbox. They are often too blunt an instrument with which to fashion a liveable community. While regulations are essential in establishing a minimum code of conduct, they are better suited at preventing the worst than creating the best in new development. They are least effective in mature or soft markets. Regulations must be supplemented, not only by traditional spending and economic development tools, but also by more innovative approaches.

Projects to enhance public property—such as landscaping governmental lands, planting trees, and restoring governmental building—are important activities that set an example for private landowners and developers.

Also, private nonprofit land trusts are increasingly critical, and are becoming more common throughout the South. There are now over 800 not-for-profit local land trusts nationwide acquiring land—from wildlife habitat to facade easements on historic buildings to development rights on farm or forest land—in order to protect especially vulnerable resources and to complement other local land use policies.

All over the country, voters in local and state-wide bond referenda have approved, by convincing majorities, new funding to acquire open space and protect natural resources. Voters increasingly recognize that local resource protection is an important element of a comprehensive community development strategy.

In addition, many local governments are working with private organizations to protect significant natural areas. For example, the Huntsville (Alabama) Land Trust has recently acquired some 550 acres on a highly visible mountain to prevent development on slopes above the city. The land trust developed public support for creating a nature center and raised $1.8 million from private sources. The City of Huntsville added $3.3 million.

A number of local governments have established governmental or quasi-governmental land trusts to supplement private efforts. In places such as Boulder, Colorado; Block Island, Rhode Island; and Davis, California, local voters have created semi-independent public agencies funded by local property transfer taxes, sales taxes, and voluntary payments added to utility bills to acquire and protect natural areas. These agencies use a steady and predictable stream of public funds to finance ongoing public land acquisition efforts.

5. Encourage "Hometown Heroes"

Whether they are local elected officials, neighborhood activists, or rural residents, leaders with tenacity are critical to successful communities. Although poorly managed growth is regarded by most citizens as an intractable problem, individual citizens have in fact made a tremendous difference in community after community. The challenge for local officials is to channel these energies into constructive efforts that benefit the entire community.

Among the many such individuals identified by The Conservation Foundation is the Chicago area's Gerry Adelman, who has continually prodded officials and citizens to accomplish his vision of a linear park running from Chicago down the Illinois and Michigan Canal to the Mississippi River. Today the precedent-setting Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor runs 120 miles and protects historical resources of 41 canal towns while providing recreational assets and a boost to economically depressed communities. It links 39 natural areas and 200 historic sites. In Joliet, old steel mills are being converted to an office complex marketed by emphasizing the attractiveness of access to the historic locks and canals.

6. Encourage Effective and Inclusive "Quality-of-Life Lobbies"

Alongside "hometown heroes," effective, broad-based, quality-of-life "lobbies" (these groups may or may not be 'lobbies' in a legal sense—with attendant impacts on tax status) may provide an opportunity to develop long-term leadership. In San Antonio, for example, the San Antonio Conservation Society both continues to serve as a watchdog and contributes money to promising redevelopment projects, not only along the San Antonio Riverwalk it helped establish but throughout the city.

In Fredericksburg, Virginia, representatives of Friends of the Rappahannock appear regularly at local zoning board and planning commission hearings to protect the Rappahannock River. Recognizing that protecting what they cherish about Fredericksburg requires more than responding to specific development proposals, the Friends have also led efforts to revitalize Fredericksburg's historic downtown.

In Alabama, the Cahaba River Society has spearheaded Alabama's first watershed-based comprehensive regional land use planning effort. The Society's efforts are particular noteworthy because the area has virtually no tradition of public land use planning. Its efforts have led to several positive changes needed to protect the Upper Cahaba Basin and an intergovernmental land use planning effort for the Basin is now underway.

Involving newcomers and young people in such projects can help instill commitment to these communities as well as providing future "stewards." Mechanisms which publicly recognize and reward such people can also create new role models and generally raise the level of civic awareness.

7. Encourage Participation-Oriented Developers.

Participation-oriented real estate developers work hand-in-hand with the community and neighbors before and during the development process. They sell their product to the whole community, not just to a few local officials. They pay attention to environmental, cultural, and aesthetic concerns and do more than the minimum mandated by regulation. They are often willing to take a chance on innovative projects that traditional developers and bankers are afraid to touch.

These innovative developers are attracted to communities that respond creatively to new ideas, that are open minded about new tools and techniques to accomplish their goals, and that are willing to sit down at the table with developers in a spirit of cooperation. If communities are not savvy, they may receive less than optimal benefits from new development or develop a reputation for approving only unimaginative, run-of-the-mill projects.

Successful communities are savvy. They learn to negotiate with developers effectively to make sure that commitments are enforced and that they receive an acceptable return on every local dollar spent. This is particularly important with small communities, which often have less planning expertise and are eager for large development projects. Without proper review, such projects may end up draining, rather than enriching, the local economy and may overwhelm the character that attracts people in the first place. By encouraging innovative development, communities can glean from the private sector the best it has to offer.


Local officials and citizens often ask what specific steps a community can take to produce success. Because of the sheer diversity of communities, there can be no single model for each to emulate. Each locality must follow a unique path. However, there are several specific policy options or activities that many communities have found useful.

1: Conduct an Inventory of Significant Natural and Cultural Assets.

A thorough inventory and assessment of significant local assets is essential prior to fashioning effective local conservation and development policies. In many communities, a wealth of information about the community's economic, natural, aesthetic, cultural, and historic resources is available. This information, however, is seldom organized into a single reference source available to local residents. A single source of information about a community's various assets and a realistic assessment of these assets can improve local decision making. Compiling this information into an easily accessible and well-illustrated reference source and distributing it widely throughout a community prior to a public planning process can not only encourage public involvement and inform local decisions but also can help build pride in a community's distinctive assets.

2: Involve the Public in Developing a Positive, Shared Vision for the Future of the Community.

Although many local plans simply gather dust on the shelf, planning can be an extremely valuable local exercise. The best planning processes often start with an effort to define the community's long-range goals—that is, to define a popular vision for the community's future. Successful efforts to do so often start with appointment of a broadly representative task force of community leaders (in and out of government) with the task of developing a statement of long-range goals or a vision for the community's future. The key characteristic of successful vision setting initiatives is often the presence of sincere efforts to encourage meaningful and broad public participation. The traditional public hearing process has proven inadequate in many communities. One proven method for encouraging public participation is to conduct scientific public opinion polling to determine public values. Another is to make presentations of possible alternatives in numerous settings outside of formal public hearing—for example, at meetings of the Rotary and other civic clubs, at Chamber of Commerce meetings, in churches and retirement homes, at job sites, in neighborhood settings, and with local clubs. A number of communities—notably Roanoke, Virginia—have successfully used television to educate the public about local planning issues.

3: Analyze the Economics of Land Use and the Costs of Alternative Development Patterns and Scenarios.

A recent Report of the Year 2020 Panel to the Chesapeake Executive Council found that the population of the Chesapeake Bay basin (most of Maryland and much of Virginia and Pennsylvania) grew almost 50 percent between 1950 and 1980. In the same period, the amount of land used for residential and commercial purposes increased 180 per cent. In 1950, each resident in the region accounted for 0.18 acres of developed land, while by 1980, each new resident accounted for 0.65 acres of newly developed land. These figures are typical of the increasingly dispersed development patterns that have occurred throughout the South since the 1950s.

An increasing number of communities have begun to question the widely held assumption that such dispersed development always has a positive impact on local budgets and helps to reduce local property taxes. A closer look at the long-term fiscal implications for new development is warranted. A number of fiscal analyses have demonstrated that taxes generated by scattered low density development would be less than the cost of providing public services and infrastructure to those areas.

For example, in Alabama, the Huntsville Land Trust recently examined the costs of providing municipal services—such as fire protection, police, roads, sewers, and schools—and calculated the municipal tax revenues that would be generated by building the number of homes allowed by zoning laws on property being considered for a nature preserve. It compared the net cost over time of providing public services to the property if it were developed with the cost of acquiring the property for a nature preserve. The report concluded that the infrastructure costs of the proposed development would be close to $5 million and that the city would expend $2,500 to $3,000 per acre each year to provide public services. In comparison, the trust noted that the city's acquisition costs for the preserve would be $3.3 million and that maintenance costs for open space are only $75 per acre annually. Dissemination of this information contributed to the city's decision to appropriate funds to acquire the property.

Many communities could develop this type of fiscal impact analysis to minimize the polarization that sometimes occurs over specific development proposals and to better inform capital spending decisions, open space acquisition programs, agricultural preservation efforts, and land use regulations.

4: Consider Development Regulations That Will Improve Local Conditions

After developing a shared vision and an understanding of local assets, the principal challenge is developing and implementing specific measures to achieve the vision. Planning cannot be an end in itself and does not replace action and leadership. Communities can use both traditional and innovative land use regulations to promote a wide variety of public goals such as protecting agricultural lands, conserving open space and sensitive natural areas such as wetlands and stream corridors, revitalizing down-towns, preserving historic buildings and districts, improving landscaping, enhancing the appearance of signs and commercial corridors, protecting scenic views, and addressing traffic congestion, These regulations must be fine tuned to meet local objectives with out imposing undue burdens.

5: Create or Strengthen a Local Land Trust or Local "Quality of Life" Advocacy Group

Determined action by concerned citizens often makes the critical difference in creating a successful community. Coordinated action by a formal association or nonprofit corporation generally is more effective than even the most accomplished individual action. A nonprofit corporation with a constructive and broad mission helps to channel energy and expertise beyond an immediate crisis, attracts interest from diverse groups, and may help avoid crises altogether. Local "quality-of-life" organizations play many roles: research, education, advocacy, and land acquisition to name a few. The requirements for incorporating a nonprofit association are minimal and the advantages can be substantial. A foundation could be created both to raise funds to supplement public dollars and to bring citizens together in a common cause.

6: Establish or Strengthen Leadership Development Programs and Lead By Example.

The ability of communities to devise and implement successful development strategies is heavily influenced by the quality of their leadership. Many communities have ongoing leadership development programs designed to identify potential community leaders, educate them about issues and resources, and bring them together to form continuing relationships. [8]

Local governments can also lead by example, indicating their commitment to improving their communities by undertaking projects to enhance public property, such as restoring downtown public buildings prior to considering other measures to revitalize downtown.

7: Recognize That All Land is Unique and Develop Tools to Analyze Land.

Regulations controlling the density at which land is developed and decisions about matters such as where to build roads, schools, and sewer capacity necessarily encourage development on some land and discourage it elsewhere on other land. Many local governments could consider developing a site analysis capacity so that day-to-day spending and land use decisions steer development to suitable lands and away from environmentally sensitive lands. The ability to account for site characteristics when making zoning, capital spending, park acquisition, or industrial siting decisions helps a community decide what land is best for development of various types and what land is best for protection at various levels.

Some communities have taken advantage of recent advances in computer technology—especially the growing sophistication and affordability of geographic information systems—to dramatically improve the local capacity, both technical and financial, to perform site analysis. A geographic information system (GIS) is a computerized system used to collect, store, analyze, and display spatial information. [9]

8: Adopt a More Informed Approach to Density.

Regulating the density of residential and commercial development presents several complex issues at the heart of many local land use disputes. Communities should make every effort to avoid the fallacy that reducing development density will necessarily create more environmentally and socially benign development. Sensitive land planning and design, clustered development with dedicated open space, protected open space corridors, and increased densities in exchange for public amenities such as bicycle paths, can produce higher density development that is environmentally, socially, and fiscally superior to lower density development.

An increasing number of communities in the South are rethinking density controls in order to create contemporary counterparts to the traditional small towns that characterize the South. These new (or "neo-traditional") designs encourage a mix of housing types within walking distance of places enhance public of employment, commerce, and recreation. Their compact design can protect critical natural resources and open space. They often differ from most recent development by stressing the historic architectural styles of the region in which they are located.

In the most often cited example, Seaside, Florida, architect Andres Duany and developer Robert Davis have designed a contemporary new community that retains the traditional characteristics of a small town or traditional neighborhood. The result is a community like the neighborhoods that developed prior to the automobile revolution of the 1950s. Duany and others have developed a model local ordinance that encourages development of traditional neighborhoods. A version has been adopted in Loudoun County, Virginia and is under consideration in a number of other jurisdictions.

Case Study:
Fort Mill, South Carolina

Recent efforts in Fort Mill, South Carolina demonstrate that a community can indeed take charge of its future. Located on the southern boundary of the Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan area, the town of Fort Mill is a small town on the brink of being overwhelmed by growth. Surrounded by farms and woodland, the community's small-town charm and proximity to booming Charlotte has created tremendous development pressure. The current population of approximately 4,500 residents is expected to increase by 77 percent over the next 12 years.

Fort Mill's situation is similar to many other towns throughout the South. For decades the town's economy has been based on textile manufacturing. But with local manufacturing on the decline, more new and long-term residents are now making the twenty to thirty-minute commute into Charlotte.

What distinguishes Fort Mill from many other towns on the urban fringe is that its citizens have implemented a comprehensive program to protect the community's significant resources and to encourage desired economic development. Working with The Conservation Foundation's Successful Communities program, they have acted decisively to protect the open space that has surrounded and defined the town for over 200 years and to revitalize the town's historic downtown.

In a community values-setting exercise conducted by Successful Communities, Fort Mill leaders targeted preserving open space, revitalizing downtown, and attracting high-quality economic development as high priorities. With assistance from a Successful Communities field representative, residents have implemented a multifaceted program to achieve these priorities.

As so often is the case in successful local efforts, a driving force has been private action in Fort Mill, by the family of Anne Springs Close. The Close family recently produced a family land use plan emphasizing a balance between conservation and environmentally sensitive development. As part of this plan, the family dedicated in perpetuity some 3,000 acres for open space purposes to create a permanent greenbelt between Fort Mill and Charlotte. This greenbelt christened on Earth Day 1990 as the Anne Springs Close Greenbelt—the cornerstone of a program to provide a permanent natural buffer surrounding the town. A nature preserve, horse trails, and other low intensity recreational opportunities are to be developed.

The greenbelt not only saves open land for public enjoyment but also helps Fort Mill maintain its distinct identity in the face of urban sprawl approaching from metropolitan Charlotte. Fort Mill leaders see the greenbelt as a valuable asset in attracting high-quality economic development. "The greenbelt enhances the quality of life in Fort Mill, which is clearly good for business," says Barry Mack, chairman of the Downtown Revitalization Corporation. [10]

Local citizens have also formed a regional nonprofit land trust—the Nation Ford Land Trust. The land trust works with private landowners to take advantage of local conservation sentiment and tax incentives. "The land trust is not trying to stop growth—far from it. Rather the land trust offers effective solutions that are in everyone's interest," says land trust Board Chairman Murray White. [11]

In a recent public opinion survey, Fort Mill residents identified walkways as their number one recreational priority. Therefore, the town, in cooperation with Springs Industries, has developed a system of pedestrian trails connecting Springs Industries open space with a community park. Called the Inner Greenway, the mile-and-a-half trail is the first phase in a long-range plan to connect all of Fort Mill's neighborhoods and parks by walking trails.

Preserving open space is but one component of the town's comprehensive program to preserve the town's character. Accordingly, the town is implementing plans to revitalize downtown. An historic district was created in the summer of 1989. Additionally, the Fort Mill Downtown Revitalization Corporation has recently completed a Main Street improvement initiative, with the addition of street trees, landscaping, traditional lighting, and benches. Downtown merchants organized meetings with business owners and downtown development experts from around the Southeast to hear ideas for increasing downtown business. Acting upon these ideas, they have implemented a number of measures that have paid off. The success of these efforts led the Fort Mill Times to editorialize in November 1990 that "Fort Mill's downtown business section is experiencing a revitalization that is exceeding the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic supporters of Main Street." [12]

The essential characteristic of these efforts is the community's arrival at a consensus about a vision of its future as a distinctive locale with a vibrant town center and an abundance of protected open space and recreational opportunities. By using a wide array of private and public measures, residents are protecting the community's character as they accommodate growth. A combination of quite conventional public and private land use tools—coupled with a clear vision of its future—indicates that Fort Mill may survive as a livable town and not inadvertently become assimilated by a nearby city.


Effective state leadership is required for growth management to fulfill its promise of offering regional solutions to some of our most pressing environmental and natural resource challenges. Many states are stepping forward to assume this leadership role with far-reaching state programs that empower localities to deal effectively with critical decisions made at the local level. With growth management tools and a regional framework provided by the states, coordinated local decisions can do much to further both regional and national environmental protection.

Several states—including Georgia, Florida, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, Washington, and New Jersey—have created comprehensive statewide growth management frameworks. Many other state governments—including Virginia, Maryland, and California—are actively considering such programs.

These comprehensive statewide land use management programs vary, but in general they are based upon the format first adopted in Oregon. With this format, the state adopts a state plan (as in Florida) of statewide goals and objectives concerning topics such as guiding urban expansion, protecting environmentally sensitive lands, and ensuring an adequate supply of housing; requires the regulations, decisions, and actions of state agencies and localities to be consistent with these goals and objectives; creates a review and approval process to ensure compliance; and uses various financial incentives to promote the goals and objectives. [13]

Several state programs also include technical and financial assistance to localities, minimum state land use standards, urban growth boundaries, and other mechanisms to improve local land use planning and decisions. Florida has adopted a policy requiring "infrastructure concurrency," perhaps the most far-reaching state land use requirement. This policy requires that local governments approve no new development unless the necessary public facilities such as adequate roads, schools, and sewers—will be in place to serve the development.

These state programs provide an important foundation upon which localities can build effective growth management programs that balance regional and local concerns. Yet even with the best statewide or regional framework, the real power to address these issues remains at the local level where the day to day decisions are made that determine the quality of life found in southern communities.

These new state growth management initiatives are promising in part because the constituency for them includes not only supporters of traditional environmental protection objectives, but also broader quality of life concerns, such as historic preservation, downtown revitalization, aesthetic enhancement, neighborhood protection, and economic development. These programs are generally supported by business interests who realize that environmental protection and rational regional planning are necessary components of healthy economies.

Even where no structured state growth management program exists, state government can play a crucial role by granting localities the powers to undertake innovative land use techniques and employ new local-option funding sources to create successful communities. By permitting local governments much wider latitude in the steps they can take to protect natural and cultural assets and to promote high quality economic development, state legislatures can unleash the creativity that exists in southern communities. "Home rule" issues may attract state legislators' attention as precious time is devoted to resolving statewide concerns. Expanding the ability of localities to undertake new initiatives may be particularly important in times when state government is subject to tight fiscal constraints, often restricting the ability of states to provide funding for growth management programs.


The steps necessary to create a successful community will vary from place to place, but the "success factors" identified in this report can serve as guideposts for communities working to take charge of their futures. The most important lesson is that local leaders in and out of government must examine their communities, identify how they want them to develop and what they should strive to protect, and craft their efforts to achieve this vision.


1 This report was prepared by Luther Propst, now the Director of the Sonoran institute formerly the Director of the Successful Communities Program at the World Wildlife Fund and The Conservation Foundation in Washington, DC. [The Southern Growth Policies Board published this report in February 1991 and gave permission to the National Park Service to use it in this publication and is similar to his workshop presentation).

2 "Will We Live in Accidental Cities or Successful Communities?" Conservation Foundation Letter, No. 6 (Washington, DC: The Conservation Foundation, 1987.

3 Roger W. Schmenner, Making Business Location Decisions Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 1982.

4 David Birch, Job Creation in America: How Our Smallest Companies Put the Most People to Work. The Free Press, New York, NY, 1987.

5 Jim Crain, personal interview with the author.

6 Jim Rouse, comments delivered at "A Conference on Managing Growth to Protect America's Special Places," Fort Worth, Texas, June 21, 1988.

7 Bureau of National Affairs, Environmental Reporter, vol. 19, No. 17. Washington, DC: August 16, 1988.

8 The Southern Growth Policies Board has published a step-by-step leadership development manual, South LINK 2000: Leadership Development in the South.

9 A Geographic Information System might be thought of as a smart map. All kinds of information can be shown on the map, from natural characteristics such as the slope of the land or types of soils; to infrastructure such as roads and utilities; to attributes such as zoning, land value, or housing conditions. The data displayed on the map are stored in computerized databases that are linked to the map. In addition to being displayed in map form, these data can be used to answer question and generate reports about development in a community.

10 Barry Mack, personal interview with the author.

11 Murry White, personal interview with the author.

12 Fort Mill Times. Fort Mill, SC. November 28, 1990.

13 This comprehensive approach could be especially useful as states increasingly promote tourism as an economic development strategy. What attracts tourists—i.e. an attractive or unique community asset—could also help build the local business climate.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008