Grow Smart Rhode Island
Smart Growth e-Briefs
  News and Tools for People Shaping Our Communities April 2004  

This Month

Statewide sprawl-curbing measure moves closer to reality

Brookings Report: Smart Money is on Smart Growth

Big Box stirring BIG debate in Rhode Island

Planning for better, safer residential streets

Vacant and abandonned property in RI gets new focus, strategy

Smart Stuff

Blackstone Valley Institute offers help in shaping communities

The drive for smart growth needs your financial help

Saving farmland just got easier


Grow Smart Board of Directors

Michael F. Ryan
Chairman of the Board

Susan Arnold
William Baldwin
S. James Busam
Joseph Caffey
Robert L. Carothers
Arnold Chace
Jen Cookke
Trudy Coxe
Peter Damon
Louise Durfee
Stephen J. Farrell
Thomas E. Freeman
J. Joseph Garrahy
John R. Gowell, Jr.
Stephen Hamblett
Robert Harding
Michael S. Hudner
Stanley J. Kanter
Howard M. Kilguss
Thomas A. Lawson
Dennis Langley
James Leach
Frederick Lippitt
Roger Mandle
Rev. James C. Miller
Thomas V. Moses
George Nee
B. Michael Rauh, Jr.
Gary Sasse
Richard Schartner
Deming Sherman
Merrill Sherman
Curt Spalding
James F. Twaddell
Ranne Warner
Sandra Whitehouse
Frederick C. Williamson
W. Edward Wood

Board Listing with Affiliation (pdf)


Scott Wolf
Executive Director

Sheila Brush
Director of Programs

John Flaherty
Director of Research & Communications

Lynn Burns
Office Manager / Executive Assistant

Dorothy Dauray
Office Assistant

Linsey Cameron
Research Assistant

Read Today's
Smart Growth

   Dear John,

You're among the 1,885 opinion leaders, state & local officials, development professionals, journalists and visionary citizens getting the latest news, happenings and trends in the smart growth movement from Grow Smart Rhode Island.

  • Statewide sprawl-curbing measure moves closer to reality

    Adoption of a policy targeting state investments to "growth centers" moved closer to becoming reality in March as the Governor's Growth Planning Council (GPC) got an update from Statewide Planning Chief John O'Brien regarding progress in addressing the needs of local communities designating growth centers. Following meetings between state agencies and municipal officials representing pilot growth center projects in Burrillville and East Providence, it was determined that the most effective next steps would be to improve communication and coordination among state agencies and to provide technical assistance to communities in areas such as engineering, environmental permitting, remediation and discretionary funding availability.

    As a result, the GPC passed two resolutions: 1) to endorse the formation of a State Technical Assistance Team; and 2) to endorse an amendment of the regulations governing the local comprehensive planning process to incorporate growth centers. New guidelines for including growth centers in community comprehensive plans will be sent to municipal officials when complete.

    Click here for a brief description of growth centers

  • Brookings Report: Smart Money is on Smart Growth

    National study cites research in Grow Smart RI's landmark Costs of Sprawl Report.

    Business and government leaders are especially eager to restrain spending and stimulate growth in these times of tight budgets and persistent economic uncertainty. In this paper, Mark Muro and Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution review the growing evidence that compact development patterns and reinvestment in established areas can save taxpayers money and improve regional economies. Overall, they conclude that managing growth with an eye to promoting urban vitality can at once reduce the cost of providing public infrastructure and services, and enhance regional economic performance.

    The report also contends that suburbs also benefit from policies that bolster the health of central cities. In sum, the best academic research suggests that smart growth is especially smart in times of fiscal constraint.

    More on the research findings

  • Big Box stirring BIG debate in Rhode Island
  •    Hopkinton
    375 residents turned out last week to oppose zoning that would allow big box retail stores on about 114 acres of land north and south of Frontier Road just off Exit 1 on Route 95. Planning Board members listened, reversed an earlier decision and recommended by a vote of 5-0 that the Town Council consider a mixed-use development zone (Read that story). Despite that recommendation, the Town Council met the next evening and voted 4-1 in favor of allowing big box development (Read that story).

    Meanwhile the Tiverton Town Council recently adopted an ordinance restricting big box stores as well as another ordinance establishing Design Review regulations for all commercial development in that town. The Tiverton Economic Development Commission proposed these and other recommendations after a year-long study on good commercial opportunties that wouldn't alter the town's rural character.

    North Smithfield
    Warwick developer Brian A. Bucci announced plans this week to develop a 120-acre, multi-million dollar shopping and office complex along Route 146a behind the Landmark Rehabilitation Center. Initial plans call for 7-10 national chain retail businesses ranging in size from 10,000 to 100,000 square feet.

    Studies and Resources on the Impact of Big Box Retail
    >Effects of Big Box Retail on Small Businesses in Rural America - MT State Univ.
    >Maryland Department of Planning Study on Big Box Retail Impacts
    >Fiscal Impact Study of Big Box Retail for Barnstable, MA
    >Middletown ordinance requires developers to fund independent analyses
    >Smart Growth America - Big Box Retail
    >The National Trust for Historic Preservation - Big Box Retail
    >The Planning Commissioners Journal on Big Box Retail
    >PBS Profile of Big Box - "Store Wars"

  • Planning for better, safer residential streets
  •    Published by the Urban Land Institute in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders and the American Society of Civil Engineers, Residential Streets takes a practical approach to planning and designing streets in residential subdivisions.

    Solidly endorsed by traffic engineers and in compliance with the requirements of state highway officials, the book provides street designs that can save on land costs, reduce the environmental impacts of runoff, provide a marketing advantage, and win approval. It will be useful to developers, builders, designers, and local officials who wish to create streets in residential communities that encourage walking and bicycling and that discourage speeding by through traffic.

    See more on this book

  • Vacant and abandonned property in RI gets new focus, strategy

    All cities and towns were surveyed. Effort aims to encourage redevelopment and recovery of lost tax revenue

    A new report by the Governor's Growth Planning Council (GPC) entitled "Vacant and Abandonned Property: Effective Solutions for Rhode Island" was released in March with 8 recommendations for state and municipal action to improve the system for returning these properties to productive use.

    Among the activities now underway, the RI Statewide Planning Program is working with the RI Geographic Information System (RIGIS) and statewide tax assessors to develop uniform standards for the collection of GIS data, including a coding system for vacant and abandonned property. At its March 8th meeting, the GPC also created a Vacant and Abandonned Property Task Force and approved a motion requesting that the Governor submit legislation to establish a Legislative Commission to, among other things, revise the Redevelopment Laws to give cities and towns more power to encourage the reuse of vacant and abandonned properties.

    Download the 32-page report (997 kb)

  • Smart Stuff

    Each month Grow Smart highlights a sampling of policy developments or other creative smart growth initiatives being implemented around Rhode Island and beyond. Do you have a story to tell? (click here to share it with us)

    -Duany wraps up Downcity charette
    -Where to get charette results

    -City officials attract developers to their plan for revitalizing downtown mill complex

    -City retains consultant to enhance downtown character, walkability

  • Blackstone Valley Institute offers help in shaping communities
  •    Resource has value beyond Blackstone Valley
    Published by the Blackstone Valley Institute, this "Design Review Manual" can help local leaders protect the quality of place in their communities. Many Rhode Island communities are growing at rapid rates and face the challenge of ensuring that new development is compatible with the established character of their historic villages and neighborhoods.

    Several types of regulations can play a role in shaping the appearance of new structures, uses, and signs including implementation of design review. While this manual was developed for Valley communities in both states and provides general information on how design review works, and how to begin a local design review process, the principles can be applied almost anywhere.

    >Download the 31-page manual (PDF 888 kb)
    >Learn more about the Blackstone Valley Institute

  • The drive for Smart Growth in RI needs your financial support

    Make a smart investment in smart growth
    As Rhode Island becomes widely "discovered", Grow Smart is committed to protecting and promoting what makes our state special and appealing -- our historic urban, town and village centers; our rolling farmland and forestland; and our picturesque coastal communities.

    Indeed, Rhode Island now has among the most progressive growth management laws, tools and resources in its favor. That's critical, because our state has developed more land in the last 39 years than it did in its first 325! Under current sprawl development patterns, we stand to lose the character of our remaining rural towns at a rate of three towns every 20 years, while our cities' vacant lots could grow by 9,000. Clearly we must reverse these trends, but we need your help like never before.

    We have taken a more visible approach in the community to reach our goals of systemic policy reform, promotion of best practices and municipal capacity building. And, in fact we had GREAT SUCCESS IN 2003 and we're advancing an ambitious Legislative & Policy Agenda for 2004. .......MORE

    >Read more about how to donate safely through our website
    >See who funds us

  • Saving farmland just got easier with expanded website

    Landowners, agricultural professionals and citizens concerned about the loss of agricultural land now have easier access to assistance, thanks to an expanded Farmland Information Center (FIC) website. The FIC is a partnership between the American Farmland Trust and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Coservation Service (NRCS).

    Launched in 1994, the FIC maintains an ever-growing collection of state laws, reports and other literature relating to farmland protection. It also offers an "answer service" to provide direct technical assistance by telephone, fax and email. In addition, the FIC staff monitor and report on farmland protection activities around the country and identify, acquire and develop new information and materials.

    Learn more


  •    April 11 (6:00 p), 27 (7:00p)
    Sustainability Lecture Series
    Roger Williams University hosts a lecture series and workshops featuring nationally and internationally renowned professors.
    For more information, call 254-3605

    April 20
    Historic Schools Day
    National Trust for Historic Preservation. Teacher lesson plans available.

    Saturday, April 24 (8:30a - 6:00p)
    19th Annual Statewide Preservation Conference: "A Future for Historic Schools"
    RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

    May 11-12 (9:00a - 5:00p)
    Economic Perspectives on Property Taxation
    Seminar sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. For more information call (800) LAND-USE.
    Cambridge, MA

    Thursday, May 13 (9:00a - 5:00p)
    Visualizing Density
    Seminar sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
    Cambridge, MA

    Submit a "May/June Event" for next month's e-brief by clicking here


    Grow Smart Rhode Island
    345 South Main Street
    Providence RI 02903

    phone: 401-273-5711

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