In 2003, the American Planning Association's Research Department received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a guidebook on smart land-development regulations. Through a two-phase process, APA produced PAS Report 556, Smart Codes: Model Land-Development Regulations, which includes 21 model codes on a variety of topics promoting the U.S. EPA Smart Growth Principles.

Smart Codes provides an overview of the structure of land-development regulations and is a guide to the development of model smart growth ordinances, including models that may be adapted by local governments.

What are smart growth codes?

The model codes are ordinances and regulations that advance smart growth objectives in towns, cities, and counties. Smart growth regulations encourage a mix of uses, the preservation of open spaces and environmentally sensitive areas, a range of housing types and transportation options, and predictable development review processes.

Because smart growth regulations lead to more transportation options and more compact, mixed use development, they inevitably have public health implications; they encourage walking, bicycling, and human interaction, with the potential to support more active, socially engaged lifestyles that result in better physical and mental health.

How can the model codes be used?

The model ordinances and commentary developed as part of this project are of vital use to planners, smart growth advocates, and others who want to know how their community can amend its ordinances to advance smart growth.

The model codes go well beyond promoting the concepts of smart growth — they move into the fundamental repair of the regulatory system. They go to the heart of what needs to be done operationally in the United States if we are serious about smart growth.

What is addressed in the report?

In developing Smart Codes, APA completed an extensive literature review of existing model ordinances and locally enacted ordinances. The report begins with a comprehensive discussion of the structure of development codes and provides guidance on how to evaluate and update them, particularly in light of smart growth principles. It then provides a brief overview of other existing smart growth–related codes both comprehensive and specialized, as well as relevant models and guidelines.

The heart of the report is 21 model smart growth ordinances with commentary.

  • Model Mixed Use Zoning District Ordinance
  • Model Live/Work Ordinance
  • Model Town Center Zoning Ordinance
  • Model Affordable Housing Density Bonus Ordinance
  • Model Unified Development Permit Review Process Ordinance
  • Model Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Ordinance
  • Model Residential Cluster Development Ordinance
  • Model Pedestrian Overlay District (POD) Ordinance
  • Model On-Site Access, Parking, and Circulation Ordinance
  • Model Shared Parking Ordinance
  • Model Street Connectivity Standards Ordinance
  • Model Urban Growth Boundary Ordinance
  • Model Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District Ordinance
  • Infill Development Incentive Model Approaches
  • Model Critical Area Ordinance
  • Model Home Occupation Ordinance
  • Model Policy Promoting Complete Streets
  • Grayfield Redevelopment Model Approaches
  • Form-Based Code Overview and Model Approaches
  • Lot Size Averaging Model Ordinance
  • Innovative Approaches to Encourage Meaningful Citizen Participation in the Development Process