Welcome to the Design Your Town website.

This one-of-a-kind resource brings together practical design solutions for complete places, best-practice details and implementation tools.

We know that our region is shaped by a myriad of incremental land-use and design decisions that are made at the local level by village zoning boards and planning boards that are staffed almost entirely by citizen planners and advocates who are dedicated, but largely untrained. With scarce resources for professional consultants, these citizen planners desperately need tools that can help inform their decisions – tools that link best practice designs to best practice implementation strategies. And these communities need a way to share their experiences and a place to go to ask questions.

The extensive material in this website is organized around three, color-coded themes:

  • Nature – the underlying green infrastructure of resources and open spaces that shape development
  • Links – the networks that promote connectivity and mobility of all kinds
  • Complete Communities – the land use patterns and building types that create neighborhoods.

These three themes are used to organize the website which covers these essential aspects of comprehensive community planning:

  • Places – Where to Grow: preferred patterns are explained in detail for each of several prototypical places: downtowns, edges of downtowns, corridors, crossroads, new neighborhoods, rural places.
  • Details – What to do: best-practice details are explained for nature (green infrastructure), links (connectivity) and communities (mixed-use).
  • Tools and Actions – How to do it: implementation is explained in terms of planning, regulation and administration.

By referring to the numbered details and principles, the user can navigate between the different sections of the website.

Who is this website for?

This website is targeted first to citizen-planners and advocates who sit on local boards and commissions and to others who are advocates for good community design, sustainable economic development, and smart growth. The material also informs prospective developers on best practices. Professional planners can use this as a training tool in their client communities.

What is covered?

  • Best practice town planning and design for each of six place types: downtowns, the edges of downtowns, corridors, crossroads, new neighborhoods and rural places.
  • Transit-oriented development.
  • Design details for nature, links and complete communities.
  • How to implement best practices through planning, regulation and administration.
  • How to match the toolbox to your local capacity.

How was this website developed?

RPA, Orange County, Lincoln Institute, PACE

The content for this website was derived from a decade of research, planning and interactive community-based projects in the New York metro region and, in particular, in the Hudson Valley. Those initiatives are funded primarily by Orange County with support from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The PACE University Land Use Law Center is also a key participant in many of these initiatives and much of the content around implementation derives from their on-going capacity building work.

Now more than ever:

Demographic shifts, resource scarcity, and a changing relationship between state and local funding for infrastructure will make smart community design look less like good planning and more like a survival strategy.

At stake is not just the appearance and character of our communities, but their economic viability.

At a time when the relationship between federal, state and local funding is changing, communities will have to learn how to make the most of their existing infrastructure. The economic viability of our towns and villages will depend also on making these communities attractive to the next generation of entrepreneurs. The ability to live, work and play in a complete community is as much about economic competitiveness as it is about good town form.

This website will explain how to make the right kinds of investments and how to design the right kinds of places.

This website is grounded on several foundational ideas that derive from best practices in community design:

  • That to be useful, training must teach how to achieve incremental and practical change that people can recognize, not highly stylized solutions and grand distant plans.
  • That design and implementation are linked.
  • That local capacity affects the selection of tools and strategies for implementation.