Managing Growth And Protecting The Environment

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Between 1970 and 2010, 345,000 acres of farms, fields, and forests were lost to development in the Greater Philadelphia region, an average of 24 acres each and every day for 40 years. Moreover, during this period, land development occurred at five times the rate of population growth. While development generally indicates a vibrant economy and a region where people want to live, low-density development and needless land consumption are inefficient forms of growth that degrade environmental quality, destroy valuable farmland, and make it increasingly difficult to construct and maintain a transportation system that meets the region's mobility needs. In short, the region's current growth patterns are not sustainable. Building a sustainable future will require acceleration and coordination of growth management and land preservation at the local level and protection of our environmental, historic, and cultural resources.

Growth Management And Land Preservation

Connections 2040 promotes a more sustainable development pattern by promoting infill development and redevelopment in areas with existing infrastructure and by promoting compact, center-based development to strengthen local communities and reduce suburban sprawl.

To complement growth management efforts, Connections 2040 calls for preserving 450,000 acres by 2040, which is about one-half of the region's remaining unprotected open space. These lands should be strategically located in the Greenspace Network and Conservation Focus Areas [0.9 MB pdf], depicted in the Connections 2040 Plan, to protect sensitive natural areas, create interconnected networks of greenspace, preserve valuable farmland, and limit the need for the costly expansion of infrastructure into rural areas. Studies have even quantified the economic value of open space.

Municipalities can employ the following tools and techniques to manage growth and preserve open space:

Growth Areas

Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs)

Conservation Design Ordinances

Agricultural Zoning

Sliding Scale Zoning

Fee-Simple Acquisition

Conservation Easements

Parkland Dedications

Official Maps

Dedicated Open Space Funding

Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plans

Environmental Resource Protection

The protection of natural resources is fundamental to protecting water quality, air quality, soil health, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat, and for providing opportunities for outdoor recreation and environmental education. Protecting farmland is necessary to maintain the viability of agricultural economies, to protect the cultural and physical fabric of rural communities, and to encourage sustainable growing practices while conserving our natural resources.

Comprehensive Environmental Ordinances

Stream Corridor Protection Ordinances

Wetlands Management Ordinances

Stormwater Ordinances

Steep Slope Ordinances

Floodplain Management Ordinances

Environmental Resource Inventories (ERI)

Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)

Master Plan Conservation Elements

Climate Change Resiliency Planning

Local Food Production And Distribution

Local governments can maximize regional investments in farmland preservation by addressing food system issues. Through effective food system planning and policies, municipalities can provide their communities with access to affordable, safe, fresh, and healthy food, strengthen the local economy, protect the environment, and reduce waste. Municipalities can play a strong role in food system planning through these strategies:

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Comprehensive Plans and Zoning Ordinances

Right-to-Farm Provisions

Procurement Policy Preference for Local Food Businesses

Streamline Licensing and Permitting Requirements

Historic And Cultural Resources

Historic preservation is the protection and maintenance of important places from the past, including buildings, neighborhoods, sites, and landscapes. By protecting, preserving, and encouraging the use and reuse of their historic resources, municipalities can maximize efficient use of their existing infrastructure, curb sprawling development patterns, and enhance local identity and community character.

Historic Preservation Plan and/or Plan Element

Historic Zoning Districts, PA Act 167 Historic Districts, and PA Act 247 Historic Overlay Districts

Demolition Ordinances

Historic Resources Design Standards

Historical Commissions

Local Historic Districts

National Register of Historic Places

Village Preservation Ordinances