• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban & Suburban Zoning Codes

Updated municipal zoning codes are essential to smart growth.  Too often, zoning codes go unchanged for years, while the demands of a changing environment go unmet.

Of course, continuity of zoning ordinances can meet basic municipal needs, but smart growth practices rely on an ever-evolving set of zoning codes, designed to meet current challenges and pave the way for future growth.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a guide to help municipalities revisit zoning codes to ensure incorporation of smart growth principles. The Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban & Suburban Zoning Codes identifies the following 11 common problems with zoning codes:

  1. Mixed use areas
  2. Context sensitive design
  3. Reform of Planned Unit Development
  4. Parking requirements
  5. Increased density and intensity in centers
  6. Street standards
  7. Encourage walkability
  8. Designate and support preferred growth areas and development sites
  9. Use of green infrastructure in stormwater management
  10. Smart annexation policies
  11. Encourage appropriate development densities on the edge

The guide outlines smart growth goals for each area and a mix of strategies for implementation.  The strategies range from modest changes and major modifications to wholesale changes to the ordinance. For each subject area, the document also outlines expected benefits, practical pointers and a list of examples and references.


  • Crystalizes municipalities smart planning goals.
  • Fosters discussion about zoning code and planning goals.
  • Implementing smart growth goals can limit sprawl, efficiently distribute public services and drive economic development.


  • Zoning issues can be politically contentious.
  • The needs and benefits of including smart growth principles must be clearly stated.

Practical Tips

  • The EPA guide can be used as a conversation starter.
  • All ordinance amendments should be reviewed by a solicitor to ensure compliance with Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) requirements.