Brevard is changing the way we plan for the future. Why?
Human communities share similarities with natural habitats. Both require diverse and complex environments to sustain their inhabitants. When properly provided, these environments nurture the ecosystems of the natural habitat -- a high country forest, for example -- and the various community settlement patterns of the human habitat -- a town, for example. When either habitat is denied its inherent complexities or is addressed independent of the other, the environments of both suffer and become non-sustaining.
Having been subjected to modeling and specialist professions over the previous half-century, the human environment has been severely eroded. It is the least understood of the two types. More is known about the health and migration needs of certain animal species than is known about how to provide the best setting for children to walk to school. The glaring gap in our knowledge about what makes a great place has not only failed us, but also facilitated our clumsy and destructive handling of the natural environment.
It has not always been this way. Whereas community growth of the past meant the loss of nature, in its place a hamlet, village, or neighborhood was gained which was as equally complex and diverse as the nature it replaced. The community growth process represented a “fair trade” between the natural and human environments. But with the start of industry and modernization, this community growth processes changed. Today when a piece of nature is lost, a housing estate, shopping center, or business park replaces it. These “products” represent a net loss to each system. The natural habitat destroyed is replaced by substandard human habitat. Heavily reliant on simple statistics and zoning to facilitate development, today’s community building methods ignore the underlying complexity of people’s actions and needs as well as the natural systems impacted by them.
Proper Coding provides a significant opportunity to reconcile the needs of both community and nature. Coding must encourage community growth in already developed areas. Coding along with proper planning should identify areas best suited for development in order to preserve natural lands. The lands on which development exists are already heavily modified by human occupation, making it a "fair trade" in these locations to place the needs of people over nature. Our children should be offered the same high level of environment to thrive in as is provided to endangered animals and plants in theirs.
Watersheds, forest preservation, biodiversity, and local agriculture sustain communities. These natural systems mitigate the negative impacts of development such as water runoff, heat island generation, air and noise pollution, and industrialized farming. At the micro-level, it is only logical to craft nature in supportive roles to increase a community’s quality of life. At the macro-level it is only logical that the natural habitat take precedence and be supported by an engaged and properly scaled community.
The ranges of each habitat, properly scaled, are called transects. A transect is a continuum that describes mutually supportive and reinforcing sets of elements. In nature, a transect describes ecosystems and their individual ecotones. In communities, a transect describes the pattern of development from most rural to most urban and the lifestyles each supports. The Transect is the basis for writing Codes that encourage the development of communities, which respond to the needs of both people and nature.
The City of Brevard already has elements of transect-based coding within its current UDO. What is required is refinement of the zones established by the Code and proper allocation of them across the City. Economics-based analysis of tax values generated by the type of Development across the City, and the impact of that development on the Environment -- specifically storm water runoff -- will be used to prepare a Design Performance Code for the City of Brevard. The Code and corresponding zoning map will respond to the City's development needs today while promoting the most successful development outcomes for its future.
Do some buildings increase a city’s tax base while others do not, and does this matter? The answers are yes and YES! The financial performance of buildings, as they relate to the creation of community wealth, differs widely. Conventional measures use an “apples to oranges” approach to analyze tax value, focusing on total acreage, the use within the building, and the sales tax revenue and job creation it generates. However, when an apples to apples approach is used, the conventional measures are shown to be misleading. In fact, it is often the case that a community’s economic condition is revealed to be unsustainable.
Is there more than one type of development, and does this matter? The answers are yes and YES! There are pre-war, people-based buildings and streets, often called traditional development; and there are post-war, car-based buildings and streets, often called conventional development. Most communities have both, but the amount of either depends on when growth occurred historically. Newer towns and cities are predominantly or even completely conventional, while older towns and cities, especially those that grew pre-war, are predominantly traditional. All communities should strive to have a balanced mix for both economic and environmental reasons.
Are some communities more sympathetic to nature than others, and what does that mean? The answers are yes and EVERYTHING! One category of overall community health that is more important than social, cultural and yes even economics, is the environment. The site and situation of a community as it relates to its natural setting drives every aspect of its existing vitality and future opportunities. Understanding the environment’s capacity to accommodate growth is paramount to the ensuring vitality and prosperity of a community, and is tied directly to the capacity of the surrounding natural systems to absorb the impact of the human habitat.