Ranson SmartCode

Ranson has requested federal funding for the development and implementation of a comprehensive SmartCode planning, zoning and incentives system to direct growth around the Green Corridor, the downtown brownfields revitalization area, and the undeveloped areas outside of the urban core.

A form-based SmartCode zoning system for more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped and underutilized areas inside the municipal boundary but outside Ranson's central downtown area, to ensure that future development in this region is traditional-neighborhood, mixed-use, green-focused development. For more information visit the SmartCode Central or Placemakers website.
SmartCode Transect
To revise Ranson's Zoning Ordinances into a SmartCode form-based zoning ordinance.

SmartCode Ordinance
The SmartCode is an integrated land development ordinance. It folds zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, public works standards and basic architectural controls into one compact document. It is also a unified ordinance, spanning scales from the region to the community to the building.

The SmartCode enables the implementation of a community's vision by coding the specific outcomes desired in particular places. It allows for distinctly different approaches in different areas within the community, unlike a one-size-fits-all conventional code. To this end, it is meant to be locally customized by professional planners, architects, and attorneys. This gives the SmartCode unusual political power, as it permits buy-in from stakeholders.

Supported Outcomes
The SmartCode supports these outcomes:
  • Walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods
  • Transportation options
  • Conservation of open lands, local character, housing diversity, and vibrant downtowns
Discouraged Outcomes
 The SmartCode discourages these outcomes:
  • Sprawl development
  • Automobile dependency
  • Loss of open lands
  • Monotonous subdivisions
  • Deserted downtowns
  • Unsafe streets and parks
Form-Based Code
The SmartCode is one of the family of form-based codes addressing primarily the physical form of building and community. It is thus unlike conventional zoning codes based on use and density, which have caused systemic problems over the past sixty years by making mixed use and walkable neighborhoods inadvertently illegal.

Transect-Based Code
The SmartCode is also a transect-based code.  A transect is usually encountered as a continuous cross-section of natural habitats for plants and animals, ranging from shorelines to wetlands to uplands. The transect of the SmartCode is extended to the human habitat, ranging from the most rural to the most urban environments. This allows environmental and urban concerns to be administered in an integrated way.

Rural-to-Urban Tansect
The SmartCode's Rural-to-Urban Transect is divided into a range of T-zones each with its own complex character. The transect ensures that a community offers a full diversity of building types, thoroughfare types, and civic space types, and that they have characteristics appropriate to their locations in the environment. The metrics for these T-zones should be locally calibrated.

The transect is a powerful tool that can coordinate standards across other disciplines including ITE (transportation) and LEED (environmental performance) standards. The platform of the transect allows the integration of the design protocols of traffic engineering, public works, town planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and ecology.

Funding Request
Ranson has requested $245,000 in HUD Community Challenge funding, matched by $105,000 in local funding, for a total project cost of $350,000 for the development and implementation of a comprehensive SmartCode planning, zoning and incentives system to direct growth around the Green Corridor, the downtown brownfields revitalization area, and the undeveloped areas outside of the central city.

In addition to this funding, Ranson will leverage $42,000 in EPA and local funding already committed to developing an exemplary model stormwater ordinance for Jefferson County. Several other connected smart growth planning efforts are already underway in Ranson, but the city needs additional resources and capacity to link these plans together into a cohesive, compelling, and effective overall system and transform the errant growth and development patterns that have marked this community for the past half-century.

HUD Challenge Funding
HUD Challenge funding will provide Ranson with much-needed resources for consultants, stakeholder collaboration, and public outreach, to link together nascent planning efforts that need enhancement and integration, including:
  • A green overlay zoning district for downtown Ranson and its brownfields revitalization areas, based primarily on LEED-ND standards
  • A green infrastructure incentive system that will foster low-impact development and green infrastructure deployment in all new development as well as site retrofits, to deal with the complete lack of stormwater infrastructure in this Chesapeake Bay watershed community and
  • A form-based Smart Code system for more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped and underutilized spaces inside the municipal boundary but outside Ranson‟s central downtown area, to ensure that future development in this region is traditional-neighborhood, mixed-use, green-focused development.
Short-Term Outcomes
The following are supported short-term outcomes:
  • Increase Community Participation and Decision-Making - A seven day charrette will precede the development of new zoning ordinances and incentives. This charrette will provide an opportunity for a wide variety of community stakeholders to play a vital participatory and formative role in the creation of a form-based code for Ranson. Representatives of minority and low-income community residents, such as the Jefferson County NAACP and the Interfaith Housing Alliance, have had integral roles in planning past initiatives in the Ranson-Charles Town area and their expertise will be utilized during this charrette as well.
  • Promote Economic Development - One of the primary goals of revising Ranson‟s zoning ordinances is to promote the productive redevelopment of the brownfield properties along the Green Corridor. Having a zoning structure in place to promote the smart development the City of Ranson desires will enable the City to more effectively partner with prospective developers and return these brownfields to productive use.
  • Reduce Energy Usage and Manage Stormwater Runoff - The green overlay district created during this project will ensure that future development in Ranson's downtown meets high standards of energy efficiency. Since buildings are responsible for more than 40% of national greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging building efficiency will not only reduce electricity consumption at these sites but also significantly lower Ranson's carbon footprint. The plan for incentivizing green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff throughout Ranson will also provide immediate environmental dividends by protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed from contaminated runoff - a goal already sought by U.S. EPA and the WV Department of Environmental Protection, which have provided funding and strong encouragement to Ranson, Charles Town and Jefferson County to begin tackling Chesapeake Bay issues through a green infrastructure plan.
  • Preserve Recreational and Open Space - By enhancing the City of Ranson's ability to direct growth in its undeveloped areas, a revamped zoning code will ensure that valuable community recreational and open spaces are kept free of development. Primarily, this will mean the continued preservation of Evitts Run Park, which runs directly adjacent to the Green Corridor and provides the most convenient recreational space for Ranson's minority and low-income residents.
  • Enhance Supply of Affordable Housing - Ranson's existing zoning has provided incentives for the development of workforce and affordable housing throughout both its downtown and undeveloped areas. A new SmartCode will enable Ranson to enhance these incentives by more effectively promoting a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, and locating these low-income resident developments near public services, workplaces and transit.
Long-Term Outcomes
The following are supported long-term outcomes:
  • Enhance Local Utilization of Transit - Once constructed, the bus shelters along the Green Corridor and the establishment of the Charles Washington Commuter Center will encourage more commuters to utilize PanTran bus service and MARC train service. Enhanced utilization of transit will reduce vehicle-miles traveled by Jefferson County residents and result in an increase of riders on both PanTran and MARC.
  • Increased Accessibility to Job Centers - Improved local transit will enable easier access to affordable transportation in the Baltimore / DC metro area for low-income residents of Ranson and Charles Town.
  • Promote Livability, Walkability - The reconstructed Green Corridor will make it safer and easier for both pedestrians and cyclists to travel along this main thoroughfare. Combined with the development of mixed-use facilities that provide jobs along this corridor, these improvements will further reduce vehicle-miles traveled, simultaneously producing significant decreases in per capita greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Promote Economic Development - The roadway improvements made along the Green Corridor will amplify the development potential of Ranson's zoning code revisions. By producing an attractive road that facilitates multiple transportation modes, these improvements will encourage businesses to locate to the Ranson-Charles Town downtown area and drive its revitalization.
  • Improve State of Repair of Infrastructure - The reconstruction of the Green Corridor will not only directly service livability goals, but also significantly improve the state of repair of this central, yet severely dilapidated road.