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Smart Growth and Sustainable Development Principles
for Belmont Planning Board meeting, April 13, 2004
James Graves, former president, Belmont Citizens Forum

See also:
Adobe Acrobat PDF version of the 10 Sustainable Development Principles - with color photos
(Adobe Acrobat reader is available free at
Microsoft Word version of the text below, for easy printing.

Background:  Smart Growth and Sustainable Development Principles


There is growing support for Smart Growth reforms in the legislature and in local communities.  The Romney Administration has made an explicit commitment to Smart Growth.  According to Governor Romney:


“To keep Massachusetts economically competitive and to improve our quality of life, it is important to coordinate state resources and implement new policies which encourage sustainable development…”

“Governor Mitt Romney created the Office for Commonwealth Development (OCD), headed by Secretary Douglas Foy, as one of two new development agency structures in his Cabinet.”  According to the OCD’s web site:

“The Office for Commonwealth Development will encourage the coordination and cooperation of all agencies, invest public funds wisely in smart growth and equitable development, give priority to investments that will deliver living wage jobs, transit access, housing, open space, and community-serving enterprises, and be guided by a set of Sustainable Development Principles.

Using the full set of ten Sustainable Development Principles we have compared development on the Uplands site versus development on the adjacent former skating rink site owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.


Meeting Sustainable Development Principles:

Uplands Versus DCR Skating Rink Site


Sustainable Development Principles

Development on

 Uplands Site

Development on DCR

 Skating Rink Site

Redevelop First

Destroys forested open space

+  Redevelops former skating rink site

Concentrate Development

Isolated.  Surrounded by wetlands and contiguous to Alewife Reservation

+  Closer to existing residential areas.

Be Fair



Restore and Enhance the Environment

Destroys uplands wildlife habitat.  Degrades habitat value of surrounding wetlands.

+   Preservation of integrated uplands wildlife and wetlands habitat and expansion of Alewife Reservation.

Conserve Natural Resources

Destruction of forest

+   Preservation of forest

Expand Housing Opportunities



Provide Transportation Choice

No direct connection to transportation.

+   Existing bus line to Alewife Station goes directly in front of site.

Increase Job Opportunities



Foster Sustainable Businesses



Plan Regionally

No direct benefits for Belmont’s neighboring communities.  Equal traffic impacts.

+  Expansion of regional recreational and educational benefits of uplands forest.  Potential expansion of regional flood storage.  Equal traffic impacts.


Conclusion:  The skating rink site is far superior at meeting Massachusetts’ Sustainable Development Principles.  It is the better alternative on six of the sustainable development principles and equally as good on four of the principles.  The Uplands site is not better at meeting any of the principles and fails on conservation of natural resources and enhancement and restoration of the environment.  


The principles below are also available in an Acrobat PDF file with color photos.



The mission of the Massachusetts Office for Commonwealth Development (OCD)

is to care for the built and natural environment by promoting sustainable development

through the integration of energy, environmental, housing, and transportation

agencies’ policies, programs and regulations.

OCD will encourage the coordination and cooperation of all agencies, invest public funds wisely in smart growth and equitable development, give priority to investments that will deliver living wage jobs, transit access, housing, open space, and community-serving enterprises, and be guided by a set of sustainable development principles.


1. REDEVELOP FIRST. Support the revitalization of community centers and neighborhoods. Encourage reuse and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure rather than the construction of new infrastructure in undeveloped areas. Give preference to redevelopment of brownfields, preservation and reuse of historic structures and rehabilitation of existing housing and schools.


2. CONCENTRATE DEVELOPMENT. Support development that is compact, conserves land, integrates uses, and fosters a sense of place. Create walkable districts mixing commercial, civic, cultural, educational and recreational activities with open space and housing for diverse communities.


3. BE FAIR. Promote equitable sharing of the benefits and burdens of development. Provide technical and strategic support for inclusive community planning to ensure social, economic, and environmental justice. Make regulatory and permitting processes for development clear, transparent, cost-effective, and oriented to encourage smart growth and regional equity.


4. RESTORE AND ENHANCE THE ENVIRONMENT. Expand land and water conservation. Protect and restore environmentally sensitive lands, natural resources, wildlife habitats, and cultural and historic landscapes. Increase the quantity, quality and accessibility of open space. Preserve critical habitat and biodiversity. Promote developments that respect and enhance the state’s natural resources.


5. CONSERVE NATURAL RESOURCES. Increase our supply of renewable energy and reduce waste of water, energy and materials. Lead by example and support conservation strategies, clean power and innovative industries. Construct and promote buildings and infrastructure that use land, energy, water and materials efficiently.


6. EXPAND HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES. Support the construction and rehabilitation of housing to meet the needs of people of all abilities, income levels and household types. Coordinate the provision of housing with the location of jobs, transit and services. Foster the development of housing, particularly multifamily, that is compatible with a community’s character and vision.


7. PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION CHOICE. Increase access to transportation options, in all

communities, including land- and water-based public transit, bicycling, and walking. Invest strategically in transportation infrastructure to encourage smart growth. Locate new development where a variety of transportation modes can be made available.


8. INCREASE JOB OPPORTUNITIES. Attract businesses with good jobs to locations near housing, infrastructure, water, and transportation options. Expand access to educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. Support the growth of new and existing local businesses.


9. FOSTER SUSTAINABLE BUSINESSES. Strengthen sustainable natural resource-based businesses, including agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Strengthen sustainable businesses. Support economic development in industry clusters consistent with regional and local character. Maintain reliable and affordable energy sources and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.


10. PLAN REGIONALLY. Support the development and implementation of local and regional plans that have broad public support and are consistent with these principles. Foster development projects, land and water conservation, transportation and housing that have a regional or multi-community benefit. Consider the long-term costs and benefits to the larger Commonwealth.


For additional information, contact the Massachusetts Office for Commonwealth Development at (617) 573-1380.