What are some of the leading resources on building neighborly towns and cities? What roles do municipalities, counties, developers, and neighbors play? This report is the last in the two-part series summarizing our findings.
Becoming a neighborly town or city doesn’t happen by accident. It takes the commitment and dedication of the municipality and or county, the developers who work within it, and the neighbors within the community.
In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed the new urbanization and smart growth movements and some variations. Below, we present the vital role that each plays in building or redeveloping a town or city into a neighborly one.
What follows is our compilation of the ideal approach and policies that can help build and maintain a neighborly town or city from the perspective of the main stakeholders: the municipality or county, the developer, and the neighbors.
Role of the Town or City and the County
For all communities:
- Adopt a policy of collaboration by design, a planning approach advocated by the National Charrette Institute (NCI) at Michigan State University.
- Create or renovate the town or city center with restaurants, shops, and businesses with a strong sense of place and that makes the community a more walkable and enjoyable one for residents and visitors.
On main street or the town or city center, include lots of trees, other sources of shade, and seating areas. make “Main Street” or town or city center tree-lined with the canopy lifted to allow store and office fronts to be seen from the street. If the street is wide enough, plant trees in the middle except for short turn lanes.
- Consider routing traffic around main street or the town or city center and restrict use to pedestrian and trolleys.
- Use sculptures and other art forms to enhance main street or the town or city center especially for the enjoyment of pedestrians.
- Produce and promote events that promote neighborliness (ex: National Night Out).
- Urge and promote “main street” or town center restaurants and merchants to offer neighborhood or district-specific promotions to encourage neighbors to meet and greet one another while taking advantage of the promotion. The promotion should be over a finite period of time such as a specific evening, Saturday, etc.
- Encourage and promote neighborhood organizations (like Neighborly Town!).
- Consider having the mayor, council, and staff to hold a neighborhood town hall at least every three years for each neighborhood or district.
- Facilitate and promote farmers markets and various festivals.
- Eliminate ordinances that discourage or prevent the building of smaller homes and accessory homes (detached or attached to the existing residence).
- Eliminate ordinances that discourage or prevent the building of work-live units and developments.
- To revitalize select neighborhoods and even main street or the town or city center, consider ordinances that allow small-scale manufacturing a.k.a. “Made in Place” as advocated by Smart Growth America.
- Allow a mix of various size homes within neighborhoods and districts.
- Design or redesign neighborhood roads and streets to prevent cut-through traffic except for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Restrict the planting of tall trees near lot lines whose shadow, when mature, would prevent the adjoining property to enjoy a vegetable garden or fruit trees and bushes.
- Consider requiring that any existing trees that do or will eventually impair a neighbor’s property in this way be topped or removed over a reasonable period of time (ex: within seven years).
- Restrict multi-story buildings that impair the privacy or exposure to sunlight of existing residences within the neighborhood except those in other multi-story buildings.
- Restrict the amount of multi-family units in proportion to single family units.
- Provide incentives for developers and builders to include in their plans design elements and amenities that facilitate neighborliness.
- Ensure that all ordinances and policies help ensure that governance in general and development in particular is predictable, transparent, cost-effective, and serves the public good.
- Ensure that staff is kept current on the latest developments and innovations that are relevant to building a neighborly town or city.
For urban communities:
- Adopt The Charter of the New Urbanism by the Congress of New Urbanism whose principles are categorized below is intended to help all stakeholders involved to know how best to preserve, design, develop, and restore our regions, cities, and neighborhoods.
- The Region: Metropolis, City, and Town
- The Neighborhood, The District, and The Corridor
- The Block, The Street, and The Building
- Adopt the Canons of Sustainable Architecture & The New Urbanism, a supplement to the Charter of the New Urbanism, whose principles are “designed to serve as a set of operating principles for human settlement that reestablish the relationship between the art of building, the making of community, and the conservation of our natural world” and whose principles are categorized below.
- The Building and Infrastructure
- The Street, Block, and Network
- The Neighborhood, Town and City
- The Region
For rural communities:
- Adopt the principles of The Charter of the New Urbanism which pertain to your particular rural community or may at some point based on current population growth trends.
- Adopt the principles of Canons of Sustainable Architecture & The New Urbanism, which pertain to your particular rural community or may at some point based on current population growth trends.
Role of the Developer
- Set the single family homes in close proximity to the street.
- Set the garage in the side or rear.
- Give each single family residence its own unique architecture and landscaping.
- On single family and multi-family units, include a front porch or front yard living space that accommodates seating for four or more.
- Include a community garden(s) for every 30 – 50 residences.
- Include a community park and open space for every 30 – 50 residences.
- Place homes in close proximity to the street.
- Build a sidewalk on both sides of every street.
- Connect neighborhoods with walking paths through parks and open spaces.
Role of Neighbors
- Make a conscious effort to meet and get to know your neighbors.
- Follow the Golden Rule with regard to neighborly relations.
- Consider hosting a neighborhood coffee, ice cream social, potluck, or some other event.
- Maintain your property and do so in accordance with all applicable laws, ordinances, and regulations.
- Consider creating a front yard living space and hang out there on occasion.
- Consider other things you can do including those in our reports here and here.
- Follow your town or city’s development plans and comment on them when and as appropriate.
- Consider becoming a Neighborly Town Ambassador (details to be announced soon).