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Smart Growth Conference Focuses on Collaboration

by Carlton Eley, EPA Development, Community, and Environment Division, OPEI

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Nearly 1,400 people attended the 7th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference held at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington DC., February 7 - 9, 2008.  It was a diverse gathering of participants and speakers who crossed disciplines to share experiences, insights and valuable tools and strategies to encourage Smart Growth implementation.
The conference program included over 100 sessions and more than 300 speakers.  It had a dynamic mix of seminars, interactive breakouts, implementation workshops, specialized trainings and optional tours of local model projects. The event featured the latest on cutting-edge Smart Growth issues such as LEED-ND [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Design], implementation tools and strategies, best practices, interactive learning experiences, new partners, new projects and new policies.
Partially due to the government’s response to Katrina and disinterest in joining the Kyoto Protocol, many speakers voiced strong beliefs that America must change at the federal level to achieve any advances in stemming our overwhelming contribution to global warming. 1

The need for greater collaboration and cooperation was another common theme during the conference.  The session “Building Great Communities Through Collaborative Problem Solving” featured William Ngutter, an architect; Jair Lynch, a developer; and Sanford Garner, an urban designer.  The experts discussed why understanding social diversity and responding to social change are keys to effective physical planning of communities and neighborhoods.  They shared successful examples, based on their own work, to leverage better community outcomes through partnerships that address equity and inclusion from the jump-start of the development process rather than as an afterthought.  For example, Sanford Garner offered remarks about the Fall Creek Place HUD Homeownership Zone in Indianapolis, and he discussed how the community was redeveloped while meeting the needs of incumbent residents and new residents. 

The conference also featured the session “Equitable Development is Smart.”  Carlton Eley, an EPA employee in the Smart Growth Program, moderated a discussion that explained how technical assistance, advocacy and capacity building are tools that can be applied to improve quality of life within distressed communities.  The panelists included Karen Torain, the Chief Asset Development and Preservation Officer for the City of Newark and Representative Harold Mitchell of the South Carolina Legislature.  Harold is also the executive director of ReGenesis, and the work of ReGenesis has been documented in the EPA report EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative-Problem Solving Model. Both presenters discussed local initiatives to revitalize communities while inspiring a renewed sense of public engagement, stewardship, and cooperation among citizens and institutions. 

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference wrapped up on Saturday, February 9.  In 2009, the conference will be held in New Mexico.  Presentations from the 7th Annual Conference will be posted to Smart Growth Online.  To access presentations from previous years, visit to the following sites:

1 Vision Long Island, Smart Growth Newsletter, February 11 – 15, 2008.


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