Smart Growth Partnership

The Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO) is committed to integrating sustainable development concepts into Iowa’s rebuilding activities. One way in which RIO is accomplishing this is through a partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), US Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA), and the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED), which will bring smart growth assistance to six Iowa communities devastated by the natural disasters of 2008.

The EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program is intended to build upon the community recovery plans and strategies developed with RIO and FEMA Emergency Support Function (ESF) #14 – Long-Term Community Recovery during the fall of 2008. The goal of the assistance is to integrate smart growth principles into recovery activities – to facilitate recovery that benefits the communities’ economy, environment, and public health. FEMA and EPA are providing funds to support this assistance.


Six communities were selected via a competitive application process among the ten communities that were assisted by FEMA ESF#14 last fall. The participating communities and a summary of the smart growth assistance provided to each are included below. 

Site visits occurred in March 2009 to allow EPA representatives and other partners to meet community leaders and elected officials, tour flood- and tornado-impacted areas, and discuss ways in which agency partners could assist with communities’ smart growth efforts. From April 2009 through October 2010, the agency partners and local communities worked together to reach consensus on work plans to be completed for each community and to develop reports outlining recommended actions and identify tools for implementation.


State of Iowa Green Infrastructure Playbook - This document references sources for technical and financial assistance for implementing green infrastructure projects for stormwater management in communities throughout Iowa.

Cedar Falls - The Cedar Falls site visit and public workshops were held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2009. The scope of the visit and assistance includes conducting a forum for elected representatives and Planning and Zoning Commission members to discuss in general terms what smart growth development looks like and the benefits of incorporating smart growth concepts in a Cedar Falls’ development codes. A workshop was also held to obtain input from the public to create a vision for redeveloping Center Street and develop options that incorporate smart growth concepts and foster revitalization of the North Cedar neighborhood, which was particularly hard hit by floods in 2008. The following documents were produced:

  • Policy Review Findings Memo
    • Review of Cedar Falls’ 2002-2022 Comprehensive plan, including considerations for how the plan could better embody each of the 10 Smart Growth Principles.
    • Recommendations for improving Cedar Falls’ subdivision ordinance, supplemental specifications to the Statewide Urban Designs and Specifications, zoning ordinance, and flood plain ordinance.
  • Next Steps Memo
    • Provides background on the North Cedar Falls public workshop and outcomes.
    • Outlines possible prioritization of necessary activities to implement recommendations from the Policy Review Findings Memo and the North Cedar workshop.
  • Final Drawings and Maps
    • Existing and proposed land use maps, Center Street concept plan, and Center Street cross section designs.

Cedar Rapids -The Cedar Rapids site visit was held on Sept. 9-10, 2009. The scope of the visit and assistance included touring impacted neighborhoods and potential infill sites to understand neighborhood character and typical development trends, meeting with various stakeholder groups to learn about the various planning initiatives underway, and obtaining input on potential improvements to development codes and regulations. The final report, Embracing the River: Smart Growth Strategies for Assisting in Cedar Rapids’ Recovery (pdf), includes:

  • Recommendations for updating the City’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations in ways that facilitate the development of mixed-use, compact neighborhoods that are walkable and provide housing and transportation choices for residents.
  • Suggestions for improving the effectiveness and usefulness of the City’s Smart Growth Scorecard.
  • Options for encouraging further housing and commercial infill development.
  • Recommendations for incorporating green infrastructure for stormwater management within community and metro planning processes and development regulations.

Coralville - The Coralville site visit and associated public workshops were held Nov. 4-5, 2009. The scope of the visit and assistance includes an evaluation of redevelopment options for Old Town and the surrounding area, which was flooded during the summer of 2008. Coralville is planning new structural improvements, as well as incorporation of green space, to enhance flood protection in the area, and would like to see redevelopment that incorporates a mix of uses. Consultants hired by the EPA will also analyze the City’s planned unit development guidelines and recommend options for including smart growth concepts within that framework, and review the City’s subdivision ordinance and streetscape standards to incorporate green infrastructure concepts to manage stormwater and improve water quality. A final report is expected during the first half of 2010.

Iowa City - The Iowa City site visit and public workshops were held November 11-13, 2009. The scope of the visit and assistance includes conducting a market analysis to assess the demand for housing and mixed-use development, including the densities and mix of uses needed to support future transit improvements in the Riverfront Crossings District south of Downtown. A workshop was conducted with elected officials, the public, and key stakeholders to set a vision and objectives for the District, create preliminary redevelopment concepts, and make recommendations for incorporating smart growth concepts in the City’s zoning and subdivision ordinances, design guidelines, green infrastructure for stormwater management, and parking and mass transit programs. A final report is expected during the first half of 2010.

New Hartford - A workshop on green infrastructure solutions for stormwater management was held in New Hartford on July 16-17, 2009. Numerous partners came together to learn about the local flooding issues caused by heavy rain events. Flooding from rivers was not addressed in this workshop. Green alternatives for stormwater management, including complimentary approaches to typical grey systems (storm sewers, etc.), were introduced at public forums. An idea for implementing a rain garden pilot project at the local school was developed to use as an educational tool to inform citizens of the usage and benefits of green infrastructure. The workshop was particularly timely as the community partnered with Iowa Living Roadways to conduct community visioning around beautification efforts during the same time as the Smart Growth workshop. The green infrastructure strategies discussed at the workshop compliment community beautification efforts. The following documents were produced:

Waverly - The Waverly project got underway in early 2010 and is benefited by the USDA – Rural Development’s participation. The final report (pdf - 9MB) includes:

  • Recommendations for the City’s 2011 comprehensive plan update and subsequent updates to its land development regulations.
  • Ideas for establishing a connected green infrastructure network throughout the community for better stormwater management, enhancement of important entrances to the town, establishment of a defined community edge, and improvement of recreational and aesthetic assets.
  • Ideas for affordable and infill housing development, including providing for a mix of housing types, ensuring that all housing is accessible and visitable, and safeguarding historic character.
  • Renderings that outline specific project examples and concepts.

A presentation (pdf - 39MB) can also be viewed that summarizes these concepts.

Iowa Smart Planning