Davidson's Rural Area Plan: Cultivating Conservation & Quality Growth

APA North Carolina Chapter


Wednesday, September 27, 2017
3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. EDT

CM | 1.25

Add to My Log


This session offers an engaging analysis of Davidson’s Rural Area Plan – an award-winning plan protecting the Town’s diminishing rural areas via open space preservation and walkable neighborhoods. Best known for its namesake college and iconic Main Street, Davidson’s intentional protection of rural lands and interconnected open space deserves equal acclaim. For the last twenty years, this small town largely prevented conventional suburban development in its rural areas through innovative zoning, open space protection/land acquisition, and partnerships with stewardship-minded stakeholders. With the Charlotte metropolitan region now extending beyond the Town’s northern and eastern borders, increasing development pressure threatens this predominantly rural area. 


To address this reality, the Town undertook an 18-month planning process to develop a framework balancing growth and conservation. The resulting Rural Area Plan employs innovative, flexible standards permitting rural development in a variety of walkable formats. Patterns range from conservation-oriented developments featuring 70% open space to small-scale “hamlets” and mixed-use centers. Each context emphasizes walkable neighborhoods, open space protection, and transportation connectivity.


Adopted in September 2016 with zoning implementation approved by elected officials in March 2017, the plan continues the Town’s original 1993 goal of preserving half its rural lands as open space and, uniquely, furthers this goal by allowing walkable development in a thoughtful, compact manner. In fact, the plan preserves 63% of existing rural lands – a remarkable feat in the nation’s second-fastest growing region. Ultimately, the plan illustrates that walkable development and conservation can go hand-in-hand. For more information, please see: www.townofdavidson.org/ruralareaplan. 


In a collegial manner panelists from the Town, consultant, and NCWRC will lead an informative, entertaining presentation/discussion of this inventive, replicable framework. Specifically, AICP/CM objectives include: 


1. Understand Rural/Open Space Planning Best Practices:

     - Learn how NC’s changing demographic landscape presents opportunities to accommodate   

       development and preserve open space without jeopardizing rural character.

2. Create/Implement Tools Promoting Walkable Places in Rural/Small Town Contexts:

     - Use quantitative/qualitative analyses to establish study areas and devise defensible,   

       conservation-based zoning standards.

     - Prioritize mobility improvements in rural areas.

3. Manage Competing Interests, Build Consensus, & Achieve Plan Implementation:

     - Generate constructive public discourse in a skeptical, contentious atmosphere. 


Craig Lewis, FAICP

Confirmed Speaker

Craig Lewis, is a Principal with Stantec, an international design consulting firm, and is located in their Charlotte office. At Stantec, he is a national Urban Places leader, where he helps public, private, non-profit and institutional clients realize the full range of benefits that flow from fully urban, walkable downtowns ... Read More

Trey Akers

Confirmed Speaker

Trey Akers, Senior Planner, AICP, LEED AP BD+C: Mr. Akers received his B.A. in Religion from Davidson College and his Master's Degree in City & Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he served as the Robert E. Stipe Fellow in Urban Design & Historic Preservation. His experience encompasses a broad skill set that includes: Regional, comprehensive and small area planning; form-based codes; development review and project management; and, extensive LEED project review. He is a design-oriented planner that currently serves within the ... Read More

Brooke Massa

Confirmed Speaker

Brooke Massa, Land Conservation Biologist: Ms. Massa graduated with high honors in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. From 2006-2008 she served as a Natural Resource Management Extension Agent with the Peace Corps in Mali, Africa, before pursing a Master's in Environmental Management, Ecosystem Science, and Conservation from ... Read More

Contact Info

Benjamin Howell, bhowell@townofmorrisville.org