Bylaw Review: Encouraging Nature-Based Solutions
Nature-based solutions encompass everything from conserving connected landscapes in large-scale developments to incorporating rain gardens in the redevelopment of a parking lot.
These practices help communities not only adapt to climate change by helping to manage extra water and higher temperatures, but also offer a host of co-benefits like improved water quality, additional pollinator habitat, reduced stormwater management costs, and a way to balance both community character and growing housing demands.
For communities to see the benefits of nature-based solutions, they first have to encourage them in their regulations and bylaws. The first step is to assess existing regulations and identify where sustainable development and climate-smart, nature-based solutions such as Low Impact Development (LID) fit in.
By using this tool, you’ll become more familiar with which best practices your community is already following, and where it can improve.
Download the Tool
Please Note: The tool is formatted as a .xlsx file. You must have access to Microsoft Excel or another compatible program in order to open and use it.
How to Use It
This webinar ("Webinar 5: Bylaw Review") was offered through the Massachusetts MVP program, of which our Bylaw Review Tool is a recommended resource.
What Does the Tool Do?
This Excel-based analysis tool incorporates best practices from local, regional, state, and federal best practices and provides allows users to evaluate existing land use regulations in comparison to these best practices in a “conventional,” “better,” and “best” format in relation to over 30 considerations (such as street width, erosion control measures, sidewalk drainage, and more).
Specifically, it allows users to evaluate local Zoning, Site Plan Review, Subdivision Rules and Regulations, Stormwater or LID bylaw, and cluster or Open Space Residential Design bylaw. While the focus is primarily on residential development, the concepts are also applicable to other forms of development and redevelopment.
Tips to Keep in Mind
There are a few things to keep in mind while using this tool that aren’t explicitly included as considerations, but are crucially important to encourage climate-smart nature-based solutions.
Interdepartmental coordination is key. Conservation, development, and resilience affect every board in different ways. Make sure to have multiple boards on board—from the health department to the DPW, there are things we can all do to improve our practices to encourage these practices.
Design for the storms of the future, not the storms of past. Make sure new development will withstand not only the current amounts of precipitation we’re seeing, but also the precipitation that’s expected during the useful lifetime of the infrastructure. Building to design standards of the 1930s will give you infrastructure that’s destined to fail with today’s climate.
- Have conversations early and often. Requiring or requesting preliminary designs from developers allows boards to start the conversation early about the community’s goals and what they’d like to see incorporated. This is a chance to talk about the importance of retaining open space, managing stormwater on site, and other large-scale issues so the developers can make sure to address the concerns without extensive (and expensive) redesigns.
LID is a broad nature-based solution strategy that reduces development impacts and manages stormwater as close to its source as possible. Examples of LID best practices include minimizing alteration of natural green infrastructure (like forests); reducing impervious surfaces; and supporting retention of naturally vegetated buffers along wetlands and waterways.
We encourage communities to support the use of LID techniques as the preferred, most easily permitted methods for managing stormwater.