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  Benicia Mayor Reviews Smart Growth Conference in North Carolina - Part 1
February 19, 2011

I thought it would be interesting to share what Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson wrote to her constituents about the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference that Corky and I also attended:



I attend the  10th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Wednesday through Sunday.  There were about 1,300 attendees from all over the United States, a mix of elected officials, local, state and federal  officials, planners, public health professionals, developers and others concerned with healthy and livable communities. Vallejo City Council member Marti Brown attended as well but no other Solano officials or staff.  This is too bad because many concurrent sessions were on topics of considerable interest including investment strategies for infrastructure, winning bond elections for transportation (light rail, bicycle routes and "complete streets", locally grown food, and sea level rise.  

The conference is co-sponsored by 170 organizations with wide ranging interests, and the major funder this year was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Justice. Speakers and presenters included high ranking government officials, including former cabinet secretaries and governors as well as people simply doing great work. 

I went on two tours:  a bus tour of three communities who collectively adopted form base zoning (similar code adopted for Benicia Downtown Master Plan and Zoning Code CA Neighborhood). The first stop was the Town of Davidson, located 20 miles north of Charlotte.  Davidson is home of Davidson College - an historic small college campus.  Davidson is built for pedestrians and bike riders, not for the car. No drive thrus are allowed here. We believe in connectivity and walkable streets.
We toured the narrow streets, cid:419E4EF7-B64E-49F9-B517-F424787E8DF4@hsd1.ca.comcast.net.

mixed use (both within buildings and neighborhoods).  All commercial property must front a public street - the unexpected benefit of this requirement is that the public safety is better and done by the city rather than private security patrols typical of shopping areas with public streets.  Below is a grocery store on a public street. When you drive off the interstate into Davidson, you see offices, restaurants and hotels but you also see green space, homes, schools and shops all accessible by pedestrians.  Davidson is the 2004 Smart Growth Award winner for Overall Excellence in town planning and design.


Although much of the retail and residential areas in Huntersville are new, the town also has 18 historic sites within a five-mile drive of Beatties Ford Road. Hopewell Presbyterian Church, for instance, dates to the 1740s and features 200 year-old stone walls around its cemetery. The Hugh Torance House and Store, started in the 1770s, is the oldest surviving store in Mecklenburg County. Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is the county's largest green space with hiking trails, a nature center, an equestrian center, boating and fishing on Mountain Island Lake, and a unique raptor center that rehabilitates and releases injured birds of prey.

The town also boasts of world-class retail stores. Birkdale Village cid:465BD402-498C-458E-97F3-C39F2C8B5E9D@hsd1.ca.comcast.net.

on Sam Furr Road includes apartments and offices above boutiques, restaurants and national retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Gap and Ann Taylor Loft. Live bands play on warm-weather weekend evenings, and parents from around the lake bring children to splash and play in the village square fountain.  Below is a Banana Republic Store.
Aside from mixed neighborhoods, Huntersville also provides access to Lake Norman. This  32,500-acre human-made lake with 520 miles of shoreline provides scenic vistas, recreation and wildlife.  Huntersville is also just 10 minutes from Charlotte and will be served by rail in a few months.
To be continued . . .