City enters “a watershed” as it ponders the UDB — Part 2

By David F. Rooney

Other places have tried systems analogous to Revelstoke’s proposed Unified Development Bylaw with varying degrees of success.

One of those places is the town of Franklin, North Carolina, which is home to Ben Brown, one the consultants brought here to help with the City’s public charettes on the UDB.

“Franklin is in Macon County, which is a huge, very rural area,” Brown, who is the director of client public relations for the Winnipeg-based urban design consultancy, PlaceMakers, said in a phone interview. “It sounds as though we share a lot of the same challenges and changes.”

Brown, a journalist, communications consultant and certified charette planner, said the county, which is located in the Smoky Mountains, was — like the Revelstoke region — historically a timber area that also had some light manufacturing and agriculture. But just as is happening here, there are major economic and social transformations occurring down there. Timber extraction is dead, agriculture is less important and manufacturing is moribund.

“We’re now one of those places where people come for the summer and retirement,” he said. “This was a big transition for locals.”

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The biggest difference is that Franklin, as a town, only has 3,800 permanent residents. Its population virtually doubles in the summer but it is essentially a much smaller community than Revelstoke, but with much the same kind of zoning as Revelstoke, Brown said.

And, like Revelstoke which is surrounded by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Franklin is nestled within a rural county where there is virtually no zoning.

“What is buildable land? Twenty years ago is was anywhere you want but… we’ve had some serious slides and now we’re starting to see strict regulation (in the countryside),” he said.

Things started to change, zoning-wise, in Franklin when private developer Tim Ryan wanted to build Sanctuary Village, which appears to consist of traditionally designed large and small homes, condos, and live/work units, shops, restaurants, a grocery store and a hospital, all within a kilometre of downtown Franklin.

According to an article in the blog, New Urbanism in the News, Ryan was motivated because he felt that the gated communities in the area didn’t do much to foster a sense of community, and he wanted that, as well as a place for a more diverse group to enjoy the mountains of western North Carolina.  Walkability and common elements are two of his major concerns.

“’You can live here and not need a car,’” Ryan was quoted as saying in the article.

“Franklin didn’t have anything in their code that would allow a development like this, and to their credit, they changed it,” the article said. “Ryan knows, as most New Urbanists do, that some people are still going to want to live in suburban developments, but he isn’t about changing the world; he’s about offering more choices.”

And choice also appears to lie at the heart of the Unified Development Bylaw that is proposed for Revelstoke.

“We want flexiblity,” Guenther said.

ThSmartcode that lies at the heart of the UDB could provide that. Smartcode is a billed as “a blueprint for places where true community, in all its complexity, can prosper.” Its flexibility and emphasis on people’s needs — not those of automobiles — air to create communities that are walkable, pleasant, environmentally benign and socially progressive.

“In the course of five days we’re going to go from people’s ideas to producing drawings and actually testing them,” said Brown. “If people are going to give their time to attend the charette they should get something out of it as quickly as possible.

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to find out more about the City of Revelstoke’s proposed Unified Development Bylaw