Smart Growth Initiatives

Smart growth initiatives can not only make communities more attractive and socially diverse, but they also improve health, economic, and environmental aspects as well. With proper planning and strategies in place from smart growth policies, designing infrastructure that delivers on multiple needs can deliver on these multiple benefits. The Smart Growth Network compiled a set of ten basic principles that smart growth policies should include to ensure these goals are met. These ten principles include mix land uses, compact building design, improving the range of housing opportunities and choices, creating walk-able neighborhoods, creating distinctive communities with a strong sense of place, preserving open spaces and critical environmental areas, strengthening development of existing communities, developing a variety of transportation choices, utilizing processes that include community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions, and making development decisions that are fair, predictable, and cost effective (EPA 2021). Policies that include these principles can create social, environmental, and financial improvements to communities for effective changes.

Local Sustainability Development

One example of smart growth initiatives can be seen in the City of Spokane as part of brownfield and land revitalization efforts. The City of Spokane is aiming to develop solar on a closed landfill that will not only help beautify the neighborhood but will also support renewable energy development in the region. This kind of development would power hundreds of homes with clean renewable energy, provide revenue to the City, and improve local neighborhood property values (Shanks 2021). These kind of advances in sustainable development can help provide clean energy and improved home values to citizens in environmentally beneficial ways. Additional development projects like this can ensure that tax-payer money is spent on deriving multiple benefits from individual projects.

Water Policies and Initiatives

In addition to land use development, water policies can play a major role in water conservation, pollution mitigation, and other water improvements. One of the largest and most effective water policies in the United States is the Clean Water Act that was passed in 1972. This policy allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement pollution control projects for bodies of water across the nation (EPA 2020). The City of Spokane developed innovative ideas to help comply with some of the costly updates required by the EPA in what they called the Integrated Clean Water Plan. To simply comply with all the different water discharge requirements from wastewater, storm water, and other pollutants entering the Spokane River, a price tag of nearly a half of a billion dollars was required. By taking an integrated approach to improving water quality where all flows, technologies, and solutions were studied, the City of Spokane was able to reduce the cost to $300 million while providing additional benefits from smart growth development by integrating street rehabilitation, park improvements, sidewalks, bike, and trail improvements, as well as updates to water mains and sewer pipes (City of Spokane 2014). By finding efficiencies in infrastructure planning, green bonds, and pooling of multiple department funding, the project was able to be funded and implemented over the next seven years where it is now nearly complete. This is a great example of how effective water policies, combined with de-siloed smart growth planning, can generate improvements to environmental and social aspects while reducing economic burden on a community.

Additional Insights

A critical measure of sustainability impact is how actions and initiatives benefit the poor and overlooked communities (Hart 2010, 189). Through the City of Spokane’s Integrated Clean Water Plan, they showcased how improving mobility and recreation options to citizens while reducing their tax burden directly impacts low-income communities. It is critical for governments and businesses to understand total system impacts to ensure that their activities enhance sustainable development for all members of the community (Hart 2010, 191). Holistic actions can be difficult to make and require communication both internally and externally, but if more cities and businesses begin utilizing these smart growth policies, greater improvements in sustainability can be made locally and globally.

Author: Logan Callen


City of Spokane. 2014. “Integrated Clean Water Plan.” City of Spokane. Accessed October 19, 2021.

EPA. 2021. “About Smart Growth.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. July 8. Accessed October 19, 2021.

—. 2020. “Summary of the Clean Water Act.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. September 9. Accessed October 19, 2021.

Hart, Stuart L. 2010. Capitalism at the Crossroads. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Shanks, Adam. 2021. “Northside Landfill Eyed For Solar Development.” The Spokesman-Review. February 25. Accessed October 19, 2021.

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