eTools for November: Creating a Sense of Place Within our Communities

Last month, our featured eTools highlighted methods that communities can take to preserve their important historic structures and features. This month, our eTools highlight methods that communities can implement to replicate historic development patterns. Both of these techniques help to create a sense of place within our communities, and provide a visual link to our nation’s past.

One way to replicate historic development patterns within a community is through a “Traditional Neighborhood Development” (or TND), which applies basic design elements to new development projects by requiring compact, pedestrian friendly designs with a mix of land uses.

Traditional Neighborhood Developments contribute to community character, housing diversity, resource conservation, and cultural heritage preservation. Some current examples include Charlestown Township’s zoning ordinance (which has multiple TND overlay provisions for select districts in the township); the subdivision of “New Daleville” in Londonderry Township; and Weatherstone, a mixed use development containing a number of parks, walking trails, and recreational opportunities within a neighborhood in West Vincent Township.

TND’s are implemented through municipal zoning and subdivision ordinances, and can be used to develop entirely new communities, or as in-fill development or redevelopment of existing communities near urban and growth areas.

Using “Form-based Codes” in zoning ordinances can also help to replicate historic development patterns by focusing on the form of proposed development rather than the land use type. This process can complement and reflect the traditional design and characteristics of a community by recognizing the relationship between public areas (such as streets) and private areas (such as neighborhoods).

Some benefits to using form-based codes include extensive public participation, reinforcing a neighborhood’s vernacular architecture, supporting compatibility with historic areas, and encouraging development in growth areas with appropriate infrastructure.

Phoenixville Borough is the primary example of this technique in Chester County, however other nearby examples include Narberth Borough in Montgomery County, and Lititz Borough in Lancaster County.

The Planning Commission’s eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or regulating use.

An alphabetical listing of eTools is available in our Municipal Corner.