Adopt Policies and Practices that Support Economic Development
Once a local government comprehensive plan or update is adopted, policies and practices can be developed and implemented that enhance the local tax base, create and retain employment opportunities, and promote a business friendly environment. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes suggests that communities establish smart growth practices, land development codes and ordinances, and regulatory changes to create complete communities that attract jobs, foster economic development, and provide an optimal quality of life. Mixing land uses, fixing parking requirements, modernizing street standards, managing storm water, adopting smart annexation policies, and providing cultural and recreational opportunities are among the strategies suggested by EPA that can help set the stage for economic development. Zoning codes that result in a strict separation of land uses can limit innovative forms of development. Communities can adopt form-based codes, as an alternative to conventional zoning regulation, to achieve a community vision and promote greater predictability of development outcomes.
Improve Service Delivery and Infrastructure
The EPA also suggests that local governments improve service delivery and physical infrastructure to provide a foundation to build economic competitiveness. Sound code enforcement practices protects the safety of citizens and the character of places. For example, codes can protect historically valuable properties from unwarranted exterior alterations. Community development programs increase the quality of life for a community’s residents by providing programs and policies that support affordable housing, improve public facilities, rehabilitate buildings, and provide economic opportunities for disadvantaged citizens. Capital improvements maintain infrastructure that serves as the building blocks for economic development. Adequate clean water, capacity to process wastewater, availability of natural gas, comparable electric utility fees, and sufficient broadband internet speeds must be in place for businesses to be attracted to and operate in a community.
Address Regulatory Barriers
While state and local governments standards and regulations are designed to protect and enhance the safety, health, and welfare of community members, they may become bureaucratic and unwieldy over time. They actually may inhibit development projects that help promote growth and stimulate local and regional economies. In addition, lengthy, costly, and unpredictable land use development approval and permitting processes can greatly deter infill development and redevelopment. IPA’s workshop summary report on “State and Local Government Regulatory Barriers to Complete Communities,” offers starting points for Delaware leaders to overcome regulatory obstacles and work toward creating more “complete” communities in Delaware.
Many local governments and states, including Delaware, are tackling regulatory reform by conducting comprehensive regulatory reviews to eliminate outdated or burdensome regulations. Jurisdictions, including New Castle County, Delaware are harnessing the power of new technology to help streamline the land development and review processes. To reduce delays and reinforce predictability in the development process, other communities have expedited permitting by creating one-stop-shops for approvals, improved customer service to improve the speed and consistency of reviews, partnering with nearby jurisdictions to achieve economies of scale in permitting, and revising zoning ordinances to minimize the need for variances.