North Carolina Sustainable Communities Grant Program announces first round of grant projects

North Carolina Community Practices Assessment

North Carolina’s Sustainable Communities Task Force recently announced the recipients of the new Sustainable Communities Grant Program, which supports regional sustainable development partnerships and makes the connection between land use, housing, and transportation issues. Recognizing that regional planning and collaboration are critical to implementing sustainable economic and community development, the state of North Carolina created the grant program to encourage cross-border efforts.

The grant program is a great example of state government recognizing the significance of regional partnerships in sustainable development. By creating incentives to strengthen regional collaboration and providing tools to assess implementation, the program helps communities become more resilient through tough economic times and create innovative solutions to sustainable development.

Nine applications were selected in April 2011, with each grantee receiving between $10,000 and $50,000. Grant applications were evaluated based on four factors: regional collaboration, evidence of need, implementation of sustainable development principles, and project effectiveness.  The Task Force awarded funds to the following entities:

City of Raleigh
Town of Morrisville
Centralina Council of Governments
Triangle J Council of Governments
City of Durham
Town of Fuquay-Varina
Town of Robbinsville
N.C. Eastern Region Military Regional Growth Task Force
Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization

The winning applications vary from revitalization projects to transit-oriented development studies.

Centralina Council of Governments, which serves nine counties in the Charlotte region, will use the grant fund to support communities in revitalizing vacant and underutilized properties, currently zoned for industrial purposes. The COG is targeting a total of 150,000 acres across five corridors and identifying existing and potential job centers and regional economic revitalization.

The Town of Morrisville plans on conducting market analysis to assess various options for transit-oriented development along a proposed regional rail line that would stop in Morrisville. They also intend on developing neighborhood compatibility models in order to garner community support for transit-oriented development and to meet the needs of local businesses and communities.

In July 2010, North Carolina passed legislation that established the Sustainable Communities Task Force, six guiding sustainability principles that reflect the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and a $250,000 state grant fund to encourage regional planning and collaboration. The grant fund was available to regional bodies, cities, and counties that are part of a regional sustainable development partnership.

In addition to the grant application, applicants were required as part of the submission to complete the Community Practices Assessment (CPA), a scorecard that allows local governments and regional bodies “to evaluate their current practices and identify opportunities for improvement in six areas of sustainable development.” While the CPA did not drive the grant project selection, the assessment tool helps applicants increase their transparency and accountability of investments they make by tracking progress and measuring performance over time as they move their planning efforts and projects forward.

Previously in April 2010, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design hosted a workshop for Governor Bev Perdue, members of her cabinet, state legislators, and local leaders assisting with the legislation development and other sustainability initiatives in North Carolina, such as the development of the CPA.

Read more about each winning project here.