Smart growth complements land conservation

Why is Tall Timbers involved in community planning?

What are we working on?

Smart Growth

Tall Timbers supports smart growth as an approach to building better communities, conserving farmland, open space, and critical natural resources, and efficiently utilizing scarce tax dollars. The principles of smart growth are applicable to communities throughout the Red Hills from Thomasville to Tallahassee and Cairo to Monticello. Smart growth principles include:

  • Mix land uses.
  • Take advantage of compact building design.
  • Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.
  • Create walkable neighborhoods.
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
  • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities.
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices.
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective.
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

For more, download the EPA’s Getting to Smart Growth and
Getting to Smart Growth 2

Why is Tall Timbers involved in
community planning?

Tall Timbers’ involvement in community planning dates back more than 25 years. Many factors contributed to our involvement in community growth and planning conversations including:

  • The rapid pace of voluntary annexation into the City of Tallahassee between 1980 and 2000, during which time the City increased from 28 to 98 square miles.
  • The conversion of nearly 100,000 acres of rural land in Leon County to residential subdivisions between 1950 and 2000.
  • The proliferation of many proposed infrastructure projects and potentially incompatible land uses throughout the rural Red Hills, which threatened to fragment this landscape. One example of many is Tall Timbers’ successful effort mitigating the widening of US 319 and creating a scenic parkway.
  • The potential to actively partner with Red Hills communities to achieve smart growth outcomes that reduce costly sprawl, protect working rural lands, and more efficiently allocate limited tax dollars.

Tall Timbers supported the four-laning of US 319 between Tallahassee and Thomasville with key conditions (see below).

Tall Timbers involvement in the four-laning resulted in the relocation of red-cockaded woodpeckers to adjoining properties, a scenic “parkway” design, permanent scenic easements along the extent of the corridor, extensive plantings of native longleaf pine, and a median maintained using prescribed fire.

What are we working on?

Maintaining low rural densities to protect working rural lands.

Large lot zoning is a land use tool that can be used in conjunction with other approaches to discourage sprawling growth in rural areas. While the most effective large lot zoning ordinances often require minimum lot sizes of 40 acres or more, Leon County’s 10-acre Rural minimum lot size has been effective at mitigating sprawling residential development when used in conjunction with other tools such as the Urban Service Area, conservation easements, and other land conservation approaches.

Supporting local comprehensive planning efforts.

Tall Timbers is an active participant in comprehensive planning efforts in all Red Hills communities. We are proponents of smart growth as a means to create vibrant communities, encourage fiscally responsible growth, and protect our forests, farms, and environmentally sensitive areas. Given the important role that Red Hills recreational hunting lands and other working rural lands play in protecting high quality habitats, safeguarding our drinking water, contributing to local and regional economies, and preserving our distinctive sense of place, it is imperative that local comprehensive planning efforts support the long-term sustainability of the Red Hills region.

Representing Tall Timbers’ conservation and smart growth interests on community planning committees, forums, and other venues.

To better represent our conservation interests, Tall Timbers planning staff participate in a wide range of activities. Recent activities include serving on the Blueprint 2020 Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC), the Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency CAC, the Thomasville Comprehensive Plan Committee, the Leon County Charter Review Committee, and the Big Bend Environmental Forum.

Supporting the use of Urban Service Areas to guide growth.

Tallahassee-Leon County’s Urban Service Area has been one of the most effective tools to encourage compact urban growth, spend tax dollars efficiently, and prevent forest and farmland fragmentation. Urban Service Areas must be sized in accordance with population growth projections, the fiscal ability of local governments to provide infrastructure and services within a defined planning horizon, and community goals regarding farm, forestland, and open space conservation.

Responding to land use and infrastructure issues.

In addition to ensuring our conservation interests are represented in long-range planning processes, Tall Timbers also responds to specific land use and infrastructure issues related to our conservation mission. Recent issues we have worked on include the siting of industrial facilities in rural areas, developing and helping enact policy recommendations to protect water quality from commercial poultry barns, and developing and helping enact recommendations to guide the location of utility-scale solar facilities in rural communities.