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Today’s blog is written by Sherry Barrett, Project Manager – Sustainable Communities with Upstate Forever.

Many of us can identify with the frustration of traffic congestion, especially trying to get from point A to point B, and point A and point B aren’t even that far apart as the crow flies—but we aren’t crows!  So, we ride out the frustration and adapt to our built environment as is. We don’t often consider how it could be changed in the future or how the area could have been planned and developed differently to better accommodate our daily needs.

How and why do some communities develop as walkable places, or conversely, as auto-dependent places that make a car a practical necessity? In a nutshell, the degree of connectivity and proximity of various types of activities (land uses) are critical factors, factors that were not recognized or fully understood for many decades. In fact, land use regulations that shape development have promoted the opposite of connectivity and proximity for decades. Such regulations ensure that different types of activities are strictly separated (institutional uses and commercial uses, including childcare facilities, physically separated from residential, etc.). The good news is that local land use regulations can be changed to prioritize practical connectivity and proximity to create more functional, traditional communities with convenient access to daily needs. The City of Spartanburg has begun to do this in recent years with the adoption of a form-based code. Communities, whether urban, suburban or rural, can be well-connected and provide close and convenient access to frequent destinations.

To learn about the impact of local land use policies on daily life routines, read “How to Make Land-Use Policies Better for Women, Families and Older Adults,” (Nov. 1, 2016, AARP Livable Communities eNewsletter), an interview with Dr. Mildred Warner of Cornell University: http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/livable-in-action/info-2016/interview-mildred-warner-planning-through-gender-child-aging-lens.html.