Coastal Issues | Cumulative Impacts | In Depth

In Depth: Smart Growth and Low Impact Development

What Is Smart Growth?

Smart growth is development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment. It changes the terms of the development debate away from the traditional growth/no growth question to "how and where should new development be accommodated." According to the Smart Growth Network, smart growth recognizes connections between development and quality of life. It leverages new growth to improve the community. The features that distinguish smart growth in a community vary from place to place, but in general, smart growth invests time, attention, and resources in restoring community and vitality to center cities and older suburbs. Smart growth in new developments is more town-centered, is transit and pedestrian oriented, and has a greater mix of housing, commercial, and retail uses. It also preserves open space and many other environmental amenities. But there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Successful communities do tend to have one thing in common—a vision of where they want to go and of what things they value in their community—and their plans for development reflect these values.

For additional information and links to publications and case studies see the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Growth website.

What is Low Impact Development (LID)?

Low Impact Development (LID) is a term used to describe plans, designs, practices, and education, which when used in combination, help reduce the development impacts of rainfall and snowmelt runoff on the environment. The goal of LID is to minimize storm water impacts from development. This is done by conserving natural features, limiting clearing and grading, capturing, storing, and infiltrating rainwater, and providing education to developers and landowners. LID is innovative as a storm water management technique, while being rooted in the basic principles of nature. LID approaches can be integrated into planning processes for the redevelopment and retrofit of urban areas, used in engineering designs for new construction, and implemented easily by homeowners on their property. Specific practices range from county-wide ordinances governing site level design to rain barrels that capture rooftop runoff at a residence. Any practice or approach that infiltrates, filters, stores, or detains storm water runoff can be considered LID.

Collectively, the series of site and neighborhood practices or "treatment train" can result in dramatic reductions in nonpoint source pollution and maintain water flows similar to natural conditions. Thus, LID is helping to protect surface and ground water quality and maintain the biological and physical integrity of aquatic resources in receiving streams.

For additional information and case studies, see the Low Impact Development Center.