Coastal Smart Growth Home: Development

Development at the Water's Edge

Coastal and waterfront communities have a distinctive sense of place created by their history, as well as by their characteristic sights, sounds, and smells. On the coast, the bellow of tugboats and the salty taste of ocean air; along lakes and rivers, the sound of the water and the feel of brisk waterborne winds-all come together to shape our sense of these special places.

The water, beaches, cliffs, rocky shores, and other natural features attract people and spur development. But many coastal and waterfront communities have found that conventional development patterns threaten the assets they treasure most. Smart growth approaches-guided by a set of principles that help communities grow in ways that expand economic opportunity, protect public health and the environment, and enhance places that people care about-can help these communities accommodate development while protecting their traditional sense of place. Some of these approaches also can help communities be more resilient to hazards created by weather and climate, such as drought, sea level rise, and coastal and inland flooding.

Living near the water has historically been, and is expected to remain, desirable. Lake and riverfront properties are typically in demand. Coastal counties, which cover less than 17 percent of the land area in the United States, are home to about 52 percent of the population and are expected to continue to grow. The ways in which cities, towns, and neighborhoods along the water handle the development pressures they face will affect their environment, economy, and quality of life for decades to come.