Common terms and common definitions for a good conversation


Community placemaking

Redesigning community spaces in a creative way to promote increased social interaction and capitalize on existing assets. Often done as temporary low cost installations to demonstrate the value to the community and local businesses.


Smart growth

A way to build cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are economically prosperous, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable. Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development in downtown areas, and community engagement. 


Social equity

Ensuring that everyone in the community has the opportunity to prosper and enjoy the city regardless of race, religion, gender, age and income. Specifically this requires affordable housing and transportation, safe quality public spaces, and growth that improves economic mobility for all members of society.



Concentrating mixed-use development in downtown areas to increase the number of people living in close proximity to essential services. Building for density focuses on increasing living space and services in urban centers to utilize existing infrastructure and preserve green space. Increasing density means more people can walk, bike or ride public transportation, which reduces household costs and carbon footprints.


Sustainable development

Development that is designed to minimize the impact of it's use on the environment through energy efficiency, waste reduction, pollution mitigation, and other factors, while remaining cost effective and economically viable in the long run.


Urban Sprawl

A development pattern where populations move away from central mixed-use urban areas into low-density single-use neighborhoods on the edges of the city - also known as suburbs. Development in these areas often requires new infrastructure, and residents in these areas are usually dependent on personal vehicles for transportation.


Green space

Land left undeveloped in an area for recreational and/or aesthetic purposes.


Tax base

The property, business transactions and workforce income that a government gets tax revenues from. High density, mixed-use development generates all three of these revenue streams to create high municipal revenue to low land use ratios. Increasing the overall tax base through real estate development, business growth, and new jobs, allows the municipality to lower the rate at which individuals and businesses are taxed while maintaining the essential services and infrastructure they rely on.


Mixed-use development

Building  a mixture of uses (housing, offices, schools, parks, shops, restaurants, and other types of development) near one another or within the same building. Mixed-use brings more people together near essential services, which can support businesses, improve safety, and enhance the vitality of an area. Mixed-use also generates significantly more municipal revenue (taxes) per acre of land, maximizing the return on one of the city's most valuable resources.


Form-based code

Using an established and agreed upon physical form and design, instead of conventional zoning, to review and grant approval to development projects. This streamlines the project permitting and approval process so that development decisions are more timely, cost-effective, and predictable for developers who want to build projects in the down town area that promote smart growth. 


Housing Cost Burdened

A designation for households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The burden of their housing cost makes it difficult to afford basics like food, transportation, clothing and daycare, and negatively impacts their economic mobility.



The physical structures and fundamental systems that serve the city and are essential for it to function. This includes but is not limited to roads, sidewalks, bridges, parks, parking lots, sewers, water treatment,  water supply, electrical grid, digital networks, public transit, and telecommuncaiton networks.


in-fill development

Developing vacant or under-utilized parcels of land within existing urban areas that are already largely developed. For example a parking lot that has the single use of housing vehicles, could be developed into a mixed-use project that retains parking but also adds the uses of retail and office space as well as housing human beings. The mixed-land use increases the value to the community and the municipal revenues (taxes) coming from the perviously undersized property.