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Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Rural Planning, Zoning, and Development Codes


Health, mobility, and access are three important areas of consideration for older adults hoping to age in place. While growth is important and often times essential, it is also necessary to consider needs, such as these, for the increasing older adult population. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency organized this report to provide local planners and leaders with a variety of proven tools and strategies that can help rural communities thoughtfully consider how and where to grow. While the focus of this report is not on older adults, there are issues discussed that are important to consider for rural residents of all ages, especially those that are hoping to age independently, in their current communities for as long as possible.

Key Points

The report is organized around 10 key issues that rural communities face when considering development. These issues include: determine areas for growth and for preservation, incorporate fiscal impact analysis in development review, reform rural planned unit developments, use wastewater infrastructure practices that meet development goals, incorporate right-size rural roads, encourage appropriate densities on the periphery, use cluster development to transition from town to countryside, create annexation policies and development standards that preserve rural character, protect agricultural and sensitive natural areas, plan and encourage rural and commercial development. Beyond providing information on each of the key issues identified, this report provides a range of strategies for responding to the issue, as well as key benefits. One of the most important takeaways from this report is that rural communities need to identify strategies that they are able to implement with their available resources.

How to Use

This document provides information for local planners and officials on planning and zoning that can help communities grow, increase the quality of life for residents, and increase business opportunities, while still protecting the way of life that most rural community residents desire. Additionally, each key issue chapter details implementation strategies, financial tools, funding sources, and related policies suited to rural areas, as well as financing and local capacity issues (e.g., lack of resources, investment capital, and local staff capacity), that are essential for local planners and officials to consider in their planning and expansion efforts.

View full report: Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Rural Planning, Zoning, and Development Codes (PDF – 4.7 MB)

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