Sunday, June 11, 2006

Filling in the blanks...

A story from the Sun yesterday talked about the perils of suburban infill development, showing that even small parcels with a few new houses can have noticeable impacts on the surrounding community.

There is nothing controversial about this. However, with our suburbs filling up, infill will become more prevalent and will need to be conducted more carefully.

Because most such developments involve only a handful of houses, the most noticeable impacts will be felt in the local neighborhoods, where even minor land use changes can have large affects on the character of the area. Meanwhile, countywide issues, such as traffic, schools and other infrastructure needs, are impacted only trivially by individual infill projects (in the aggregate, of course, infill has a decidedly nontrivial impact on infrastructure).

When examining potential infill developments, I would argue, it is more important that we focus on the local context. APFO and other growth control measures will ensure infrastructure isn't overly-burdened by new development on the county level, but on the local level we lack measures to protect neighborhoods from negative impacts of infill.

All of this speaks to the need to focus our community planning efforts on neighborhoods. During comprehensive rezoning, changing a parcel's zoning to allow for an extra three houses looks like a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of other things being discussed. By zooming to the neighborhood level, however, the appropriateness of a zoning change becomes markedly more discernible and is given the attention it deserves.

Infill can be tricky or easy to deal with; infuriating or pleasing; welcome or shunned; beneficial or harmful; or appropriate or inappropriate.

The only thing that it definitely is, however, is inevitable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Infill may be inevitable, but bad infill doesn't have to be.

Room for improvement exists in neighborhood notification before and during the process, regulation loopholes, document control, plan document standards, oversight during the planning review process, enforcement of regulations, holding developers accountable for pursuing projects that do not comply, and requiring infill designs to meet road safety regulations.