City governments are a partner with developers in building communities within city borders. Just as with any other partner in business, the parties must have a common goal, and be able to communicate effectively to achieve success. In many places, communication on green development remains poor and education on both sides of the fence is not uniform.
For example, a developer might propose to use a new wall system to construct his buildings that the city engineers are not familiar with. Therefore the city must be educated accordingly and the developer will be informed by the city that this new material may require new ordinances, building codes, or inspection guidelines – a quagmire that might make the developer feel it’s too much trouble to bother with.
The question is why are many cities not planning smarter? First of all, most cities are under-staffed and under-funded. To complicate matters, many poorly funded cities have experienced rapid growth in the past few years. U.S. government funding is continually diminishing and tax dollars are stretched tightly in a slipping economy. The result is some local governments stick to what they know – the simple unsustainable methods for building and development. This creates a resistance to change which trickles from government laws and ordinances on down the ladder.
Efficiency in the approval process is one of the main bottlenecks in getting green development built. Loosening the restraints of time to complete the planning and approval process for those developers who can demonstrate the feasibility for the success of a green project might help. At the moment, in order for a city to adopt and embrace significant sustainable building practices it takes exorbitantly more time and a series of additional hoops to jump through. Couple this time with an uneducated staff and you have a virtual nightmare on your hands if you are a developer trying to do something different.
I have been working with Coyote Creek Estates, near Salt Lake City, who are currently undergoing a case study that is providing the information for this article. Coyote Creek is a 28-home Sustainable Planned Urban Development (SPUD) that has been wading through the challenges of bringing something entirely green and environmentally-oriented to an area that has, until now, not been known for green innovaion.
Dave Christenson, the developer of the project, has made himself available to triplepundit readers for any questions on green development and the challenges he’s had in Utah. You may find contact information for at his website provided by the link above. Or just leave a comment here.
In May, the details of the case study will be available online.