Taking a Closer Look

Over many years, urban analyst Edward McMahon has taken a closer look at many issues facing our communities — from growth, to development patterns, to urban design. Starting this Fall, columnist Steve McCutchan will also be reporting on PlannersWeb on a broad range of challenging community concerns.

slice of apple pie

What’s So Bad About Zoning?

A reality check on four myths about zoning and land use regulation: 1. Zoning is un-American, 2. Sparsely populated rural areas don’t need to control uses of land, 3. Land use controls will increase taxes and reduce property values, and 4. Planning is a bad idea.

photo of electricians examining wiring

Building Codes Get Smarter

Building codes often make it financially infeasible to rehabilitate older — often historic — buildings by requiring rehab work to meet the same standards as new construction. This approach is changing as states and localities are adopting more flexible building codes.

Giles County, Virginia, Courthouse

Public Buildings Should Set the Standard

Until the last half of the 20th century, key public buildings were almost always designed and built to be focal points of their communities. Unfortunately, in recent decades the trend has been to build cheaply in peripheral locations.

road sign indicating roundabout ahead

Road Design: A Turn Ahead

Too often new roadways have been designed to be wider and straighter, without much consideration being given to the character of the surrounding community. In recent years, however, there has been a gradual turn towards more thoughtful, “context sensitive” roadway design.

school boy looking at fleet of school buses.

School Sprawl

One of the most important, but often overlooked, contributors to sprawl is the construction of large educational facilities in outlying, undeveloped areas. Edward McMahon takes a look at some of the causes of “school sprawl” — and at some efforts to combat it.

green infrastructure illustration by Paul Hoffman for PlannersWeb

Green Infrastructure

Your town, city, or county undoubtedly has an infrastructure plan dealing with water, sewer, roads, and utilities — the gray infrastructure. But has it planned as well for green infrastructure, such as trails, greenways, river corridors, and bike paths?

Tourists and traffic In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, an entry point to Smoky Mountains National Park.

Gateway Communities

Many people enjoy visiting national parks and other scenic attractions. A growing number have also decided to pack up and move to the small cities and towns close to these special places.

simple illustration of downtown housing

Smart Growth Trends

What do suburban town centers, green space as a residential amenity, open space systems, downtown housing, and cooperation between developers and environmentalists have in common?

Fast Food Restuarant

All Development Is Not Created Equal

Successful communities understand that when they say no to development that is contrary to the long-term health of their community, they will almost always get better development in its place, argues PCJ columnist Edward McMahon.