Smart Growth Land Use Framework

Local governments are creating and implementing smart growth land use frameworks with their authority, tools, and leadership capacity. With a smart growth land use framework as a strong foundation (within the Official Community Plan) , over time local governments can develop a full range of innovative climate change tools and actions.

Key Objectives of Smart Growth Land Use

  • Mutually beneficial interaction among land uses
  • Efficient land use and transportation system – integrated strategies
  • Benefits and rewards for choosing efficient land use and transportation options

Two Key Questions: Where? How?

• Where? Grow where development can be accommodated with minimal environmental harm, and where development takes maximum advantage of public investments already made. Prevent spread of residential and commercial development into the rural and undeveloped areas; instead accommodate growth in the serviced urban areas of the community.
• How? It is about how new development works with neighbouring development to create choices to meet different needs and preferences: to walk or use public transit, to meet neighbours in attractive common spaces, to live in an apartment, a house, or townhouse. [2]

Smart Growth Land Use in Context

The focus of smart growth strategies can depend on community size and context.


• redevelop and infill existing neighbourhoods
• improve design features
• improve multimodal transportation systems – walking, transit


• create medium density, mixed use centres and corridors
• develop existing suburban neighbourhoods, and/or master-plan contiguous developments
• make communities more complete with more services and employment
• improve travel options – cycling, ridesharing, transit

Rural and small town:

• channel development and services into mixed-use walkable villages / centres
• improve travel options – cycling, ridesharing.

Smart Growth Land Use = Climate Change Action

Wise and coordinated land use and transportation planning have enduring positive impacts.
Decisions made now about land use pattern will affect future transportation opportunities, and greenhouse gas emission levels.
For example, the layout of streets in a town can last for many thousands of years (evidenced by ancient cities); even pavement surfaces last a couple of decades.
More compact development offers significant opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency in building and site design and district energy systems. [4]

Characteristics of a Smart Growth Land Use Framework


Add Value to Existing Areas

• Growing in and up, as an alternative to spreading out into new areas. Concentrate on making existing developed areas and neighbourhood more compact and complete. [3]
• Local government tools and policies encourage infill development and discourage sprawl. (R_6), (R_7)
• Compact development does not mean high-rises and high-density. It means a higher average blend of densities (higher than traditional or existing densities for the context) as well as a mix of land uses, concentrated employment, interconnected streets, and design of structures and spaces at a human scale. [12]
• The future build-out of neighbourhoods is planned (neighbourhood plan) and then filled in incrementally.

Mixed Uses, Vibrant Commercial Centres

• Neighbourhoods can become more compact and complete as they develop over time with “a variety of lifestyle, housing, economic and cultural opportunities area available in a vibrant … area” [4]
• Travel destinations (cafes, restaurants, corner stores, parks) are key to liveliness, as well as key to encouraging active transportation.
• Mixed use synergy: economic viability of a corner store depends on a critical mass of clientele in its surrounding neighbourhood: about 10 units per acre for residential development. [1], [3]

Undeveloped and Rural Areas are protected from Sprawling Development

• When new development is directed to existing developed areas, it is easier to maintain the integrity of “green infrastructure” (glossary).
• The character of rural areas is intact, not diluted by sprawling development.

Building a Sustainable Land Use Framework in a Place with Slow Rate of Community Growth [small]

• Local government can lead revitalization of key areas
• A proactive plan builds pride and identity, defines a future vision, and identifies a range of actions including quick-wins.
• Local government tools and policies can be intentionally developed to:
o provide certainty about where new growth will happen
o direct public investments such as institutions, parks, public realm improvements to existing centres
o allow rural character of undeveloped areas to thrive without threat of sprawling development.