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Staying Connected in Cornelius through Responsible Community Design


Planning and zoning ordinances changed significantly in the town of Cornelius, North Carolina after reforming and adopting a new land development code nearly 20 years ago. This case study, produced by Active Living by Design, highlights the progress the town of Cornelius has made in becoming a more livable community by creating safe and inviting public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. The purpose of the case study is to provide an in-depth look at the strategies and tactics used in Cornelius that have enhanced the built environment and encouraged and facilitated physical activity in the community.

Key Points

Providing pedestrians and cyclists with proper infrastructure that is safe, convenient, and accessible will encourage residents to utilize active transport, thereby promoting a healthy, active lifestyle. Cornelius’s land development code was adopted as a development guideline with a strong emphasis on pedestrian health and safety. The ordinance encourages automobile alternatives and active transportation options and promotes connectivity throughout Cornelius by prohibiting cul-de-sacs and closed or gated streets. This initiative focuses on making community streets more attractive, accessible, and enjoyable for pedestrians and others by requiring all streets to be landscaped and sidewalks to be provided on both sides of the road.

Other report highlights include:

  • The ordinance called for the creation of a broad-based Citizen’s Advisory Board made up of citizens, local business interests, developers, builders, and relators. According to Cornelius’s town planner, the key to the initiative’s success was the continuous interaction between all stakeholders in the planning and development process.
  • Cornelius’s land development code aims to give local neighborhoods a sense of place, restore community character, and provide an attractive built environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • The approach to code reformation taken by Cornelius was successful in this town but it may not be practical for all towns. For example, the neighboring town of Huntersville attempted to implement a similar code but faced severe opposition from citizens and developers lobbied heavily against the code.

How to Use

Planners, developers, local leaders, and government officials can use this case study to gain an understanding of the approaches and techniques used in Cornelius to create an interconnected, pedestrian-friendly community. Additionally, the report provides a list of lessons learned that will be beneficial to communities considering similar code reformation.

View Full Report: Staying Connected in Cornelius through Responsible Community Design (PDF – 3 MB)

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