Impacts Guidelines

Early in 2006 BECWA sponsored a public event to discuss the progress of the USGS model for the BEC Watershed. During our discussion, several officials from watershed communities expressed a need for some type of guidelines to judge impacts when developments are proposed. To that end, BECWA hired UW-Madison doctoral student Evan Murdock from the Nelson Institute, to research this issue. He has compiled the following set of references to guide local officials. Evan has divided the information into 4 categories:

We hope you will find this guide helpful!


Smart Growth Guides:

Smart Growth For Tennessee Towns And Counties: A Process Guide
A Smart Growth development guide for non-urban municipalities, aimed at planners. Includes a review of computer based tools for assessing developments. Primarily focused on Tennessee, however there is much broadly applicable information.

Smart Growth and Water Resources (EPA)
An introduction to smart growth and water resource protection. Includes links to many EPA resources. A good first intro to smart growth.

Development at the urban fringe and beyond (USDA)
A USDA guide to growth issues; primarily focused on costs and the effects on agriculture. Aimed at Federal planners but contains good background and introductory information.

Massachusetts Low Impact Development Toolkit
From the Boston Metropolitan Planning Council. Sections geared toward public officials, citizens, developers, and planners. Includes a checklist for assessing local building codes for LID compliance.

Sustainable Development Assessment Worksheet (Erie County NY Soil and Water Conservation District)
Covers community risk assessment factors (determining the level of risk in a particular community) and problem and needs assessments. Contains concrete management options.

Smart Growth Online
Information and resources for smart growth. Part of http://www.sustainable.org. There is an extraordinary list of environmental resources here:

Smart Growth Online Library
The site also covers other smart growth issues including quality of life and transportation

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Environmental Guides for Planners:


“NEMO is a University of Connecticut educational program for land use decision makers that addresses the relationship of land use to natural resource protection.” Contains a large list of publications and resources geared towards the protection of natural resources from development pressures. A great deal of very specific design and planning information.

Planners Web
Numerous articles on controlling sprawl and smart growth; all require payment for access.

Community Watershed Assessment Handbook
Designed for the Chesapeake Bay area, the CWAH provides step-by step instructions for assessing current and anticipated watershed conditions.


A short introduction to environmental corridors from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). Explains the benefits of corridor protection to communities.


Design document for planning conservation subdivisions (cluster development). Covers site analysis, preservation areas, and site design. Comparison of conventional and conservation site layouts.


An introduction and model ordinances for cluster development.

Northeaster Illinois Planning Commission publications
General planning documents, some geared to natural resource protection. Many require payment.

UN Sustainable Cities Program
Geared toward larger cities.

Center for Watershed Protection
A large selection of assessment tools and resources. Tools include worksheets for vulnerability analysis, retrofit assessment (retrofits are improvements to existing stormwater systems), the Rapid Stream Assessment Technique (RSAT), and conservation assessment (methods for identifying areas needing exceptional protection).

Economic Benefits of Runoff Controls
EPA document provides economic arguments for establishing runoff controls. Includes many specific case studies.

Stream Protection in Urban Watersheds Through Master Planning

(University of Virginia)
Designed around the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, this large document lays out very specific tasks for protecting streams and riparian ecosystems. Includes case studies.

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General Planning Information:

DMOZ Urban and Regional Planning
Long list of planning resources, many of which are environmentally focused.


From the Center for Watershed Protection, a quick worksheet to assess the state of codes and ordinances for stream protection.

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Hydrology Focused, Site-specific Planning Documents:


CWP, out of print but available online. Presents strategies for site planning that serve to protect watershed and stream quality. Covers buffers, cluster development, street design and layout, and more.

Low-Impact Development Design Strategies
Maryland Dept of Environmental Resources. Site design to reduce runoff. An introduction to hydrologic analysis and a section on public outreach are included.

Low-Impact Site Design
Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Part of the Massachusetts Low Impact Development Toolkit, this document focuses of site design for developers.


From the Center for Watershed Protection, 22 short principles for ecosystem protection and natural area preservation.

Better Site Design
Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance Department. Ecofriendly site design techniques and case studies. Several tools and worksheets.

Low Impact Development Urban Design Tools
Background information and very basic interactive design tools.

References: Learn More about Ecologically Based Designs
From chesapeakebay.net, a short bibliography of eco-design books and resources.

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Additional Links:

Community Planning Resources Website

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Page last updated:April 2, 2014
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