Managed/Smart Growth: A New Method of Controlling Land Use

Managed/Smart Growth: A New Method of Controlling Land Use

By Mark D. Shipman
Saalfeld Griggs PC


“Managed Growth,” “Smart Growth,” and “Thoughtful Growth” are terms of art now being used across this country by local governments, planning theorists, development associations, and development opponents for new programs looking at the affects of current and future growth. Nationally, urban sprawl is tied with crime as one of the most pressing concerns for Americans in all communities. Locally, several jurisdictions are currently engaged in the long-range planning process to determine what the future (vision) for the urban and rural areas of our communities will look like. This article will briefly touch on Managed Growth programs, common elements that are found within these programs, and pros and cons to these programs.

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) in its website states:

“In its broadest sense, smart growth means meeting the underlying demand for housing created by an ever-increasing population and prosperous economy by building a political census and employing market sensitive and innovative land use and planning concepts. It means understanding that suburban job growth and the strong desire to live in single-family homes will continue to encourage growth in suburbia. At the same time, smart growth means meeting that housing demand ‘in smarter ways’ by planning for and building to higher densities, preserving meaningful open space and protecting environmentally sensitive areas.” See

However it is defined, the reality is that Managed Growth programs mean less individual choice with respect to development of real property and more governmental intervention and control in the future development of properties.


  • These programs are more town-centered, as opposed to suburban-centered.
  • They are transit and pedestrian oriented. That is, they seek to develop networks of walkable streets with a focus on encouraging walking to destinations (work and services). They also focus on transit-oriented developments so people can take transit instead of driving personal vehicles.
  • They have a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses.
  • Such programs focus on utilizing existing “brown fields” (contaminated property) in older communities, retaining existing open space and prime agricultural lands on the suburban fringe (urban growth boundaries).
  • These programs seek to minimize the economic cost of extending urban infrastructure (sewer, water, storm, streets, parks) further out of the city core, and instead promote maintaining and increasing the density of those services within the city core.
  • These programs intend to stop the spread of low-density suburban development through the use of urban growth boundaries.
  • These programs also desire to redevelop existing suburbs to higher population densities, focusing on multi-family dwelling mixes and row houses, instead of single-family detached homes.
  • These programs focus on limiting the construction of new roadways and place more emphasis on “traffic calming” measures that reduce road speeds and capacities, and that look to the construction of rail transit systems.



  • They guide current and future development with coordinated comprehensive planning.
  • They preserve important community values (historic, cultural, economic, and environmental).
  • They facilitate community involvement on development issues to achieve mutually beneficial results.
  • They preserve the existing infrastructure to serve existing and new residents.
  • They redevelop in-fill housing, brown fields, and rundown or desolate buildings. They guide compact suburban development into existing suburban areas, new town centers, and near existing transportation facilities.


  • They increase housing costs.
  • They increase development costs for commercial uses.
  • They increase traffic congestion by directing more people into small concentrated areas that currently cannot handle traffic impacts.
  • They frustrate existing land use programs already established for managing growth – like Chapter 66 in the City of Salem.
  • They add more regulations, and thus more government review, leading to opportunities for appeals to the land use system.


The population in the greater mid-Willamette Valley area is growing. The increase in population, housing and new industry is not likely going to grind to a halt. The fear of sprawl and “growth” has even caused some of our local jurisdictions to begin “future” planning processes for the future of our communities, incorporating some of the elements identified above.

Both the City of Salem and Marion County are currently in the process of developing Managed Growth programs. These programs will contain not only vision statements, but will also be tied to maps and eventual regulations that will affect how our properties and neighborhoods are developed in the future. For those of us who own businesses and/or residences within these jurisdictions, we need to become familiar with this process and should get involved now while these plans are being formed, rather than at the end of the process.

For those of you who have general questions about these processes, or specific questions regarding whether your property may be affected, please contact us.