Innovative Infrastructure Financing Mechanisms for Smart Growth
This report examines the potential for infrastructure
financing mechanisms to contribute to smart growth outcomes. The report
describes 15 tools currently used in the US or in Canada, provides an
overview of each mechanism, indicates what kind of infrastructure it
can be applied to, describes the potential smart growth outcomes, lists
the advantages and disadvantages, identifies cities where the tool is
being used, and provides an information source. It also includes
detailed case studies of 10 of those mechanisms in use. Published 2008.
Author Ray Tomalty. Download the report here. Download a summary of the tools discussed in the report here.
Alternative Development Standards
Alternative development standards (ADS) allow for more flexible requirements
for road widths, building specifications, zoning uses and densities, and
rainwater management that support smart growth objectives.
Development standards are the regulations, requirements and by-laws by which
developments must abide. Development standards are often antiquated,
over-prescriptive and cost prohibitive.
Development patterns affect infrastructure and service costs, often resulting
in pressure to increase taxes, find new revenue sources or cut services.
Development can also have an undesirable impact on the environment and result
in conflicts between community aspirations and traditional development.
In response, many communities are exploring different ways that municipal
infrastructure can be designed, constructed and maintained. Alternative land
development patterns can result in buildings, streets, neighbourhoods and
entire communities that look and function much differently than in the past.
Alternative Development Standards (ADS), often called smart growth, complete
communities and green development, are less expensive, less wasteful and more
environmentally and socially sensitive than conventional practices.
Communities designed using ADS are:
- more compact
- have mixed-use zoning (eg.
residential mixed in with commercial)
- encourage a variety of housing
- friendly to pedestrians,
bicycles and transit
- less material- and
labour-intensive for capital infrastructure (e.g. roads, pipes, parking
lots) and servicing.
Widespread use of ADS can:
- reduce dwelling
unit costs by 25 to 40%
- protect ecosystems during
infrastructure construction and maintenance
- increase community interaction
through housing clusters and mixed-use zones
- reduce energy use by building
transportation infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit
- reduce per capita production of
greenhouse gases by 30 to 50%
- preserve natural habitats and
ecosystems through native landscaping and site-sensitive design
- provide cost-savings to
developers and consumers by relaxing parking requirements in new
developments (e.g. fewer parking stalls in developments near public
- improve local business by
increasing local residential activity
How alternative development standards are used: Projects based
on ADS focus on the needs of residents and minimizing impact on regional and
site-specific ecosystems. Characteristics include:
- open space
adjacent to clustered mixed-use neighbourhoods
- a mixture of shops, attached
homes and apartments above retail stores, outbuildings and alleyways
- recreation and employment at a
scale that encourages walking
- grid-pattern streets
- narrower road widths
- smaller lots
Management In areas with a high ratio of impervious groundcover (pavement,
buildings, etc.), rainwater runs more quickly into drainage waterways often
without filtering through the ground as it would under natural conditions. The
result may be a lowering of the groundwater table and circumventing of the
natural water filtration and cleansing process by the soil. Concentrated runoff
can cause higher peak flows than normal, resulting in flooding, erosion and
scouring of fish-bearing streams.
ADS can increase site permeability by encouraging alternative
construction materials for roofs, roadways and parking lots. Green development
strategies help maintain habitat and preserve natural and agricultural
resources by maintaining the integrity of riparian vegetation, hydrological
systems and water quality.
Improved rainwater management, better transit, reduced parking
requirements and narrower road widths are ways in which ADS can result in
lighter, cheaper municipal infrastructure while creating more walkable,
interactive neighbourhoods that benefit from their natural attributes.
Barriers to Implementation ADS are often considered new and
un-tested resulting in a reluctance by engineers and planners to approve their
use or requiring cost-prohibitive, additional conventional back-up systems.
Fortunately, as successful alternative designs are being implemented, they will
ultimately become the standard for design and construction in municipal works.
Development standards span a number of local
government responsibilities. The following are some areas where the potential
of ADS can be promoted: Planning
- Official Community Plans,
Neighbourhood plans and zoning (clustering, lot coverage, lot size,
minimum yards, performance standards, density bonusing, mixed-use and
Environmentally Sensitive Areas)
- other bylaws and guidelines
(tree protection, heritage conservation, etc.)
- covenants and development
- approval process (speedier
approvals for smart growth developments)
- programs (Tree Trust)
- financial and other
incentives/barriers (development cost charges)
- road right-of-way standards
(narrower roads, traffic calming measures)
- pavement standards (permeable
- bikeway and pedestrian
standards and materials
- parking standards (cash in
lieu, relaxed standards, maximum requirements)
- rainwater standards (on-site
handling, permeability, combining with parks and green spaces, protecting
environmentally sensitive areas
- construction standards (erosion
- wastewater standards (community
septic, solar aquatic systems, etc.)
- financial and other
Parks and Greenspace
- open space dedication
- stream stewardship standards
- conservation of natural
- recreation, school and cultural
- cluster development to
- financial and other
- methods of reducing risk and
liability for innovation
- process and tools for
innovation (financial and otherwise)
- senior government funding for
For more information
on Alternative Development Standards: Websites
- Alternative Development
Standards, by Patrick Condon (Vancouver: University of British Columbia,
- Better Not Bigger, by Eben
Fodor (Stony Creek, CT: New Society Publishers, 1999).
- The Geography of Nowhere, by
James Howard Kunstler (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1993).