Get wise; grow smart

Growing Greener
    Putting Conservation into Local Plans and Ordinances

by Randall Arendt

Island Press, 1988 240 pp. $42.50, paper


In this new book are marvelous examples of intelligently designed residential developments, where cars take the "back door" and houses are connected by paths through natural landscape; where instead of "cookie-cutter" lots with back yards and fronting sidewalks there are common open spaces and playing fields.

In one model, fruit trees and other edible plants are the landscaping of choice. Residents pick the fruit, all except for the almonds, which are harvested professionally, sold and the money (about $3,000 a year) returned to the community maintenance funds. Kids ride their bikes from house to house to playing fields without ever touching a street; neighbors gather in the common areas for picnics and games. The carefully planned terraced landscape collects rainwater and redirects it to replenish the area’s ground water instead of running off pavement into gutters.

The book brings together the rationale, the means and the design for conservation planning in development. It includes discussion of such practical issues as the community audit process, the comprehesive plan, conservancy zoning and application documents. It describes the benefits of conservation planning and design, and offers several attractive examples of subdivisions with conservation areas across the country. There is also an abundance of drawing, maps, photographs and supporting material.

The book is thorough, and the material is carefully written and presented. Appended material includes answers to commonly asked questions such as "Does this conservation-based approach involve a ‘taking’?" (The answer is "No".)

It covers such issues as ensuring permanent protection for conservation lands; identifying ownership; maintenance; and tax liability. It explains how sewer disposal works, how the conservation approach differs from "clustering," how residential values compare to conventional subdivisions (very favorably, despite many realtors’ misguided pessimism) and many other fine points.

Planners, local officials, people exploring land protection and those encountering local area growth will find Growing Greener an essential resource with an encouraging outlook.

This review first appeared in The Workbook, Spring 2000.

© Copyright by POINT, 2000