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New Urbanists Say They Missed an Opportunity in Virginia's New Street Rules

Virginia recently announced new rules governing the connectivity and width of streets. Some new urbanists bemoan that they may have muffed an opportunity to make the new standards even better.
April 26, 2009, 9am PDT | The Intrepid Staff
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"On July 1, Virginia will begin enforcing new standards that require street networks to be better connected and that allow subdivision streets to be significantly narrower than in the past."

"'I think they will have a great impact,' Nicholas Donohue, assistant secretary of transportation, said of the new Secondary Street Acceptance Requirements, which were enacted after 18 months of public consultation and refinement. 'This is one of those common-sense policies that would have improved the traffic situation if it had been in place years ago.'"

"The standards will discourage developments from being built without direct links to adjacent neighborhoods. The commonwealth will use a "connectivity index" to ensure that people have choices of how to get from one place to another. Subdivisions will no longer be built with public streets that provide only one way in and out."

"However, Daniel Slone, a Richmond attorney who specializes in legal issues affecting New Urbanism, says new urbanists let a larger victory slip through their hands."

"'The State conducted a fully open process and encouraged new urbanists to the table,' Slone said. 'Out of that process came a very good proposal. When this went out to public comment, it was largely ignored by new urbanists, but not by the Home Builders [Association of Virginia].' The Home Builders attacked the proposal and succeeded in having it diluted - after which 'the new urbanist experts weighed in,' according to Slone."

"'By then the Home Builders' machine was engaged and we never recovered momentum,' said Slone, who has represented new urbanist developers for 20 years. 'The missing ingredient,' in Slone's view, 'was public support for the more aggressive standard.' New urbanist experts had good arguments to counter the builders, according to Slone, but the builders effectively mobilized public opinion, and 'the weaker arguments prevailed.'"

Thanks to Renee Gayle Brutvan

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Published on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 in New Urban News
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