Envision the Urban Rogue Valley. . .

The Greater Bear Creek Regional Problem Solving Plan, or "RPS" plan is awaiting approval from the state, and if approved, it will add an additional 8,500 acres of rural lands to the urban footprint to the Bear Creek Valley. If this happens, how do we ensure that our region remains livable and sustainable?

Below are questions relating to "Smart Growth" tools other communities have used to achieve these very goals. We'd love to hear from you about which tools make sense for this region!

* 1. Growing Within our Boundaries: Concentrating new development in existing urban areas helps to preserve farmland and at the same time invigorates cities with new life and economic opportunities. But this requires developing at higher densities. Should we seeks ways to increase urban densities in our region?

* 2. If you answered "yes" to question one, do you have any thoughts on how much, where and how (i.e. requiring increases, developer incentives, etc.)? If you answered "no", why do you think increased density is not a good idea?

* 3. Infrastructure costs: It costs cities and taxpayers a lot of money to build and expand infrastructure (i.e. water, sewer, electrical lines; roads, transit routes) outside of existing urban areas. Oregon law allows cities to charge developers “System Development Charges” or “SDCs” to cover some of these costs, but oftentimes cities reduce or waive SDCs to spur development. Should we use SDCs to concentrate development in our existing urban areas and how (i.e. charging full SDCs to develop on urban fringe/farmland but waiving or reducing SDCs to develop in urban core)?

* 4. Infill & Redevelopment: Looking around any city in our region, you can find vacant lots and abandoned buildings and may wonder, “Why can’t this be developed into something nice and attractive?” The answer often is that it is more expensive for the developer to retrofit existing developments than to build from scratch on undeveloped land, so growth tends to move to the urban fringe. Should we create policies to make it easier to redevelop and reinvest in these urban areas?

* 5. How could we go about encouraging infill and redevelopment in our communities? What policy ideas come to mind?

* 6. Community Design Standards: The neighborhoods we saw in the Smart Growth scenarios in the forum (and available on our website) shared common characteristics: they were attractive, full of lots of trees and “green spaces” and felt safe due to attractive lighting, etc., and seemed easy get around by walking or biking. Using a set of design standards can help a community to ensure that its neighborhoods have these desirable characteristics. Should we implement community design standards in this region?

* 7. If "yes", do you have any ideas on how we should implement community design standards? (For example, should we have localized, neighborhood standards or more city-wide standards?). Note: Creating community design guidelines is generally a public process where local residents are invited to give feedback along the way as they are being developed.

* 8. What particular characteristics are important to you to see implemented in your neighborhood?

* 9. Mixing Residential and Commercial Uses: The neighborhoods in the “Makeovers” seen earlier also shared a common theme: They appeared to be economically vibrant, with lots of shops and economic activity, people out on the streets shopping, eating and getting from place to place. Using the tool of “mixed-use development” is a way to encourage economic vitality in an area by encouraging people to live and work near where they shop and work. Unfortunately, local codes tend to be outdated, making it harder and more expensive to do this type of development. Should we change local codes where needed to allow mixed-use development?

* 10. Where in our local communities would you like to encourage and facilitate mixed-use development the most? What existing urban areas have the most opportunities for this type of reinvestment?

* 11. Providing More Housing Choices: The single-family home on a large private lot may have been the most coveted housing choice in the 1950s but this is changing. An aging population, a challenging economy and other factors have contributed to a growing demand for less expensive and lower maintenance housing options, including apartments, condominiums, and “commons”-type developments with shared open space. However, zoning rules often limit the housing options in particular neighborhoods, restricting residential choice. Should we rethink zoning codes to allow for more housing options in our communities?

* 12. Complete Streets: There is a link to a video about “Complete Streets" on our website. While that was done in NYC, this concept can be applied anywhere and at various scales, and can be used to make biking and walking safer and more convenient, slowing traffic and providing more infrastructure like bike lanes and pedestrian crossings. Should we try this concept locally?

* 13. If so, where do you think we should we try it? Do you have any ideas on how it should be implemented?

* 14. What other ways would you like to see non-auto transportation and pedestrian/biker safety be encouraged?

* 15. Transit-oriented Development: Besides making our streets more “complete,” another way to facilitate non-auto transportation is to implement “transit-oriented development.” This means that we concentrate our residential and commercial development along transit routes, which leads to higher ridership and in turn, better service, more routes, etc. Should we concentrate development along these routes?

* 16. If "yes", how and where should we think about doing this in the Rogue Valley?

* 17. Invest less in parking? Parking lots tend to reinforce our dependence on the automobile. (Not to mention they can be unattractive and consume a lot of prime land that could be used other ways!) However, businesses understandably want lots of parking for their customers (and city codes actually require that they have ample parking). How do we ensure that our local businesses thrive but at the same time reduce the need for all these parking lots?

* 18. Should our local municipalities continue to subsidize parking?

* 19. Are there ways to attract businesses and people to our downtown areas besides free and/or abundant parking?

* 20. There is a concept often applied in mixed-use development known as Shared Parking - parking requirements that consider residential and commercial mixes, as residential spaces are often vacant during business hours and can be used for parking for nearby businesses during these times - thereby reducing overall parking requirements. Do you think shared parking concepts could have some potential in our urban areas when integrated with mixed-use development?