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Communities throughout the country are witnessing an onrush of citizen interest and support for the concept of sustainable development. People have an almost intuitive understanding that our profligate ways of using our land, water, air, and human resources need to be reconsidered.
Sustainable development is a way of life that provides benefits to the economy, environment, and community livability without sacrificing one for the other.
Although there is not a single, universally accepted definition of sustainable development, a good description is that it is a way of life that provides benefits to the economy, environment, and community livability without sacrificing one for the other. Achieving energy efficiency and utilizing green technology are common goals.
Planning, and the strategies, ordinances, rules, and regulations that carry out planning initiatives, can be among the most effective ways to create a sustainable community.
Regulatory reform is a major issue in many communities as they consider being more sustainable. Planners can contribute to that effort by reviewing their building and zoning codes to ascertain any unreasonable barriers to architects and developers interested in using the latest green techniques in building design, materials, and systems. Small turbine wind systems, eco-roofs, solar panels, and rainwater retention are just some of the many ways new and remodeled buildings can be more sustainable.
When reexamining your rules and regulations, ask yourselves, "Do we reward or punish designers and developers who bring these and other new ideas to the permit counter?"
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Elaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.