Ranson Renewed

The City of Ranson, along with our partner Charles Town, received the three seminal grants from the President's Partnership for Sustainable Communities in October 2010. The Ranson-Charles Town community has been selected by DOT, HUD and EPA to serve as a national model for how small rural cities on the fringe of a major metropolitan area can foster sustainable economic development, transit, and community livability through targeted and strategic planning and infrastructure investments. We were the only community out of 1,700 applicants who received all three grants. This has received a lot of attention on the federal level including the White House. This project is approximately a $1.5 million planning project.

Project Components
To facilitate this transformative change, planning funds are being used for the following four linked and interdependent project components:
  • Develop a form-based SmartCode system that joins a green downtown overlay district with a new zoning approach for the undeveloped, outlying areas of the cities
  • Redesign and engineer the Fairfax Boulevard-George Street Corridor into a complete street with green infrastructure, to promote a better transportation route for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit
  • Design a new regional Charles Washington Commuter Center in downtown Charles Town that will facilitate access to regional rail and bus transit systems for Ranson, Charles Town and Jefferson County
  • Create a master plan for downtown that spurs job growth and economic development in former dilapidated manufacturing sites
As if this was not ambitious enough, the City Council authorized funds to revise the City's comprehensive plan at the same time.

Ranson Renewed Week
From September 8 - 14, 2011, we hosted a number of consultants and experts to help create the plan for our future. There are approximately 30 representing a diverse range of skills:
  • Architecture
  • Business people
  • Citizens
  • Dignitaries on the federal, state and local level
  • Economic development
  • Engineering
  • Environmental
  • Investors
  • Landscaping
  • Planning
  • Residents
  • Storm water
  • Urban design
  • Utilities
City Hall was busy with people, while the public portion kicked off on September 8 at 7 p.m. at Washington High School with an opening session. Former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening was our keynote speaker, followed by EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislaus - a presidential appointment underneath the EPA Secretary. Find out more information on the Ranson Renewed website.

The purpose of all the plans and events are to achieve is economic development and jobs.
Form-base Zoning Ordinance
A form-based zoning ordinance to ensure that future development in this region is traditional-neighborhood, mixed-use, green-focused development. A few of you may be asking "What is a form-based code" Form-Based Zoning Codes are a method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form or look. Form-based codes place an emphasis on the relationship between the street and buildings, pedestrian and vehicles, public and private spaces, and the relationship between multiple buildings, a block, a neighborhood and transitions in scale.

They create a predictable public realm by controlling physical form of private developments, with a secondary focus on land use regulations. This is in contrast to conventional zoning's focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., floor area ratios, dwelling units per acre, setbacks, parking ratios) to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory.

Differences between Euclidean Codes & Form-Based Codes
Euclidean Codes segregate uses where Form-Based Codes stress the importance of mixed-use areas.  Because Form-Based Codes are prescriptive (they state what you want), rather than proscriptive (what you don't want), form-based codes (FBCs) can achieve a more predictable physical result.
  • Form-based codes are pro-active, rather than re-active. Form-Based codes are much shorter, more concise, and organized for visual access and readability.
  • This feature makes it easier for non-planners to determine whether compliance has been achieved.
  • FBCs work well in established communities because they effectively define and codify a neighborhood's existing structure and promote compatible infill with ease. Euclidean zoning focuses on and regulates use, ignores design and human scale.
  • Euclidean zoning codes regulates use and de-emphasizes concerns for design and human scale.
Revised Comprehensive Plan
A revised comprehensive plan. Not long after the consultants were selected under the three grants it became very obvious that the City's 2004 comprehensive plan had served its purpose and needed updated. Therefore, a couple of weeks ago, the Council authorized the revision of the city's comprehensive plan.

Building upon the extensive planning work conducted as a part of the HUD Challenge Planning Grant, PlaceMakers will utilize the charrette as the comprehensive plan public process, and assure all necessary revisions and additions are provided to legally empower the new form-based code. Additionally, work conducted as part of the TIGER and EPA grants will be embedded to update the Comprehensive Plan. Simply, this package will wrap everything into a concise package that can be used as a blueprint to future planning.