Rural by Design
Planning for Town and Country

by Randall Arendt, FRTPI

Planners' Press
American Planning Association

This 525-page volume, written in a highly readable and lively style, represents an extensive updating of the first edition. Two salient features are that:

Excerpts from four key chapters are available in the Free Downloadable Publications section of this website, in the subsection called “Excerpts from the new Rural by Design: Four Articles from APA’s Planning Magazine”. They are provided to give readers a deeper insight into the contents of this new edition.

This completely new volume provides an unparalleled resource for practicing planners, members of local boards and commissions, students in degree courses, those teaching them, and young professionals preparing for the AICP exam. A comprehensive reference book, it is filled with useful material and examples that are easily understood and ready to be applied in day-to-day planning in the suburbanizing parts of metropolitan regions, and beyond.

As the planning world has evolved over the past two decades, this new edition provides more information on a broader range of topics. For example, it contains entirely new chapters on form-based coding (and simpler alternatives), visioning, sustainability, low-impact development, green infrastructure networks, and transfers of development rights. It also expands coverage of strengthening town centers, transforming commercial corridors, housing options, and village and hamlet planning.

Additional new topics addressed include complete streets, pocket neighborhoods, official mapping, gateway planning, mitigation banking, vernal pool protection, waterway daylighting, and restoring wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and floodplains.

At the same time, fact-filled chapters providing relevant information on nitty-gritty issues such as street design, stormwater management, affordable housing, and farmland preservation have been retained and substantially updated.

To enrich the learning experience, the number of case studies has more than doubled, from 38 to 80 (70 of them entirely new, plus ten updated from the 1994 edition). Similarly, the nearly 900 color illustrations make this a highly visual book. These photographs, site plans, aerial perspective sketches, and cross-sections illustrate practical solutions to the challenges facing many rural and suburban communities across the country.

One of the core messages of this new edition (like the original one) is that the broad concept of “rural” lies largely in the eyes of the beholders, and that rural elements such as greenways, parks, and open space are not only appropriate, but indeed are necessary, for the healthy functioning of the more densely developing communities of the 21st century. This volume therefore pays special attention to various planning techniques for producing a more livable future, answering fundamental human needs for greenspace and parkland (described by E.O. Wilson as “biophilia”), while at the same time building more responsibly, efficiently, and sustainably where urban services exist or can be easily extended.

Possibly the most promising avenue for exploration is the basic greenway concept, which can be adapted to areas as different as rural hinterlands and urban cores. Greenways provide connectivity within ecological systems and provide linkages within and among human settlements. The best land-use plans are therefore based on greenways, with communities designed with nature and for people. Greenway planning, in its broadest sense, is therefore a recurring theme of this new edition. As noted in Chapter 8, this enlightened approach can be easily integrated into both new urban planning and conservation design.

Summing up, this new edition has been designed to be even more helpful to readers than the original volume, listed as one of 39 books recommended for “the essential planning library” by the American Planning Association, and required reading for the AICP exam.

Ordering Autographed Copies

To order copies of this volume, autographed by the author at no additional cost, please send a check in the amount of $99.95 per volume ($10 below APA’s list price for nonmembers).

For shipping to US addresses, please add $6.70 for insured Media Mail (6-8 days). Postal rates to Canada will vary. Please contact Randall Arendt at for details.

Although the book is soft-cover, it is produced with a very durable sewn binding just like the original hardcover version.

Please send check or money order payable to Randall Arendt, at 6 Sparwell Lane, Brunswick, Maine 04011. Enquiries to

Review Comments

“A tremendous resource ... provides planners with the critical tools necessary to actually create great places ... a must-have book for every planner’s library ... directly on point and understandable to all audiences”

-- Rick Bernhardt, FAICP, Executive Director, Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Planning Department

“Squarely faces the political, economic, and practical obstacles that confront both robust urbanism and effective land preservation ... shows how to improve our human habitat while preserving the fragile ecological systems on which we all depend.”

--Joel Russell, Principal of Joel Russell Associates in Northampton, Massachusetts, and former Executive Director, Form-Based Codes Institute

“A detailed reference guide that everyone involved in planning the towns and open spaces of the American countryside should have at their side.”

-- Daniel K. Slone, national land-use and sustainability lawyer: board member of the Congress of the New Urbanism and the Resilient Design Institute

Read additional reviews of Rural by Design.

Detailed Table of Contents


Foreword: Broadly Defining “Rural”

Part One: The Character of Towns

1. The Common Qualities of Traditional Towns

Planned Origins
Diverse Uses within a Common Design Vocabulary
Distinguishing Features
Sense of Community
Opportunities for Casual Socializing
Open Space within and Around
Form and Incremental Growth

2. Changes in the Pattern

Zoning Unconnected to Planning
The Predicted Decline of Suburbia
Community-wide or Regional Development Patterns
Taming Sprawl with Distance-Based Impact Fees
Rediscovering Traditional Townscape Elements
A Question of Scale
Mental Connections and Conscious Choices
Visual Techniques to Increase Awareness
Conventional Zoning as “Planned Sprawl”
Performance Zoning for Open Space
Pigeonhole Zoning, or Traditional Mix?

3. Choosing among Alternative Patterns

Public Dissatisfaction with Conventional Zoning
Boots on the Ground: Taking to the Streets to Evaluate Community Strengths and Weaknesses
Identifying “Places of the Heart”
Heart & Soul Planning: Incorporating Community Values into Land Use Plans
Contextual Standards for New Development
Two Pattern Book Experiences: Denton and Huntersville
Village and Hamlet Planning in Northern Virginia
     Sidebar 1: Huntley Farm
     Sidebar 2: Black Oak and Fremont Villages
Opposition to Planned Communities
Initiating Better Design Solutions

4. The Aesthetics of Form

The Unwinian School and Unwin’s Relevance Today
Timeless Principles of Village Form and Townscape
Replacing Inappropriate Standards
Envisioning Settlements as More than Subdivisions

5. Sustainability, Best Practices, and Visionary Planning

Definitions, Indicators, and Scorecards
Maryland’s “Genuine Progress Indicators”
Obstacles, Practical Limits, and Rebalancing Density
Rating System for Sustainable Neighborhoods
Social Sustainability: Hometown Aurora
Sustainable Sites Initiative
The “Original Green”
     Sidebar: Ahwahnee Principles for Resource-Efficient Communities

6. Vision Plans, Downzoning, and Balkanization

Visions of the Ideal
The Downzoning Challenge
Notable Successes
Political Difficulties
Several Possible Ways Forward
State Leadership, Regional Approaches, and Municipal Balkanization

Part Two: Design Approaches

7. Form-Based Coding, Performance Zoning, and Design Standards

Historical Antecedents
The Rise of Form-Based Codes
Components of Form-Based Codes
Building Support for Form-Based Codes
Supplementing Form-Based Coding with Performance Standards
Another Approach in Flagstaff, Arizona
Experience Elsewhere: Canada and Britain
Three Further Local Examples
Design Standards and an "FBC-Lite" Approach
FBCs, Smart Codes, and the Fiscal Impact Quotient
Form-Based Codes and Greenway Planning

8. Blending New Urbanism with Greenway Planning

Creating Healthy and Connected Communities
Historical Antecedents: Greenway Community Design
Greater Respect for Site Features
Blended Forms: More Compact, Greener, and Healthier
Other Green Aspects of New Urban Design
Social and Health Benefits of a Greener Approach
Reducing Obesity through Blended Community Design

Part Three: Implementation Techniques

9. Broadening Housing Choices

Pocket Neighborhoods
     Sidebar: Essential Design Keys
Co-housing: A Community-based Alternative
Affordable Housing
     Affordable Housing in a Small Southern Town
     Density Bonuses that Really Work
     Compact Neighborhood Layouts
     Affordable Model Home Designs in Neighborhood Redevelopment
     Two-Family Homes: Fitting in Better
     Multi-Family Dwellings
     Accessory Dwelling Units: A Hidden Resource
     Preserving Affordability through Community Land Trusts
     Affordable Conservation-based Housing: NC and Colorado
     Mixed Uses: Living “Above the Shop”

10. Strengthening Town Centers

Town Centers: Maintaining their Vital Functions
     Sidebar: New Life for Old Department Store
Pro-active Efforts: The Main Street Program
Lessons Learned in Holland, Michigan
Town Centers: Maintaining their Traditional Form
     Infill Development as Pattern Enhancer
The Value of Open Space in Town Centers
     Sidebar: Public Art in Downtown Sheridan, Wyoming
Small Parks and Parklets
     Sidebar: The Bridge of Flowers
Pedestrian Streets
Smart Math of Mixed Use Development
Resolving Parking Issues
     Sidebar: Small Town Example of Downtown Revitalization with a Parking Garage

11. Transforming Gateways and Highway Corridors

The Declining Highway Strip, and New Approaches
Re-Inventing the Strip
Choices for the Future
Developing a Gateway Corridor in Davidson, North Carolina
     Sidebar: Gateway Visioning in Warwick, New York
Another Progressive Example: South Kingston, Rhode Island
Gateway Corridor to York Maine
Highway Corridor Design Handbook: Kittery, Maine
Design Standards along Major Corridors in Gainesville, Florida
Official Mapping and Physical Plans to Set the Proper Pattern
     Official Maps
     Physical Plans Showing New Street Alignments
Rural Highways: An Appropriate Form

Part Four: Designing Manmade Infrastructure

12. Designing Better Streets

Complete Streets
Sidewalks for Exercise and Safety
A Fresh Look at Street Standards
Excessive Widths and “Road Diets”
On-Street Parking and “Yield Streets”
Shorter Curves to Calm Traffic
Curbing the Tendency to Curb
Center Medians for Beauty and Safety
Modern Street Roundabouts
Back Lanes and Alleys
Cul-de-Sacs and their Alternatives
Street Connections and Official Street Maps
Street Tree Planting
Country Lanes and Common Drives

13. Low-Impact Development: A Greener Approach to Stormwater

Problems and Challenges
The Fundamentals of LID
Soil Characteristics
Smart Growth Development Patterns
Economic Benefits
Adopting New LID Regulations
Rain Gardens: Several Minnesota Examples
Contaminated Stormwater SEdiment: Costs and Challenges
Infiltration Basin in Red Clay Soil
The Green at College Park, Arlington, Texas
Street Edge Alternatives Demonstration Project, Seattle
Broadview Green Grid
Redevelopment Strategies to Improve Stormwater Management at High Point
LID in New Developments: Blending New Urban and Conservation Design
Prairie Crossing’s “Treatment Train”

14. Sewage Treatment Alternatives

Conservation Design and Septic Disposal
Off-Lot Individual Drainfields
Septic System Design Innovation
Contour Systems
Wastewater Volume Reduction
Statewide Efforts to Require Community Sewage Systems
Shared Septic Systems Community Drainfields
Design of Shared Systems
     Sidebar: Village Square Community Wastewater System
Maintenance of Shared Systems
Sand Filters
     Sidebar: Donovan Farm: Community System Protecting Historic Farmstead
Land Treatment
Categories of Land Treatment
Wastewater Reclamation and Re-use
Addressing Maintenance Concerns
Alternative Sewer Systems
     Sidebar: Benefits of Small-Scale Alternative Sewage Systems
Constructed Wetlands
Constructed Wetlands for Individual Homes
Common Misconceptions Concerning Constructed Wetlands
Mayo Penninusula: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Constructed Wetlands for a Small City: Arcata, California
Muncipal Composting

Part Five: Protecting the Natural Infrastructure

15. Greenways: A Healthy Community-Builder

Overview and History
Multiple Benefits of Greenways
     Environmental Benefits
     Property Value Enhancement
     Wellness Benefits
     Benefits to the Mind
     Safety Benefits
Greenway Design: Connectivity and Edges
Comprehensive Greenway Planning
Official Maps in Greenway Planning
Greenway Zoning and Subdivision Techniques
     Sidebar: London Grove Township, Pennsylvania
Overcoming Public Concerns
Minimum Widths for Greenway Buffers
Greenway Corridors for Wildlife
Composite Greenway Standards

16. Protecting and Restoring the Green Infrastructure Network

Information Resources for Communities
Southeastern Wisconsin’s Environmental Corridor Mapping and Policies
Backyard Measures and Highway Corridors
Protecting and Conserving Natural Resources
     Conserving Woodlands
     Managing Woodlands
     Woodland Regeneration and Hydrology
     Conserving Vernal Pools
     Protecting Lakes and Rivers
     Conserving Grasslands
     Mitigating Woodland Losses
     Wildfire Management at the Wildland/Urban Edge
     Land Trusts and Green Infrastructure Protection
          Sidebar: Westford Conservation Trust
Redressing Environmental Mistakes
     Mitigation Banking and Ecosystem Credits
     Reforesting Open Lands by Municipalities and Land Trusts
     Restoring Grasslands and Prairies
     Restoring Floodplains by Removing Legacy Sediments
     Improving River Water Quality by Creating Farmland Wetlands
     Re-Greening Shopping Centers

17. Retaining Farmland and Farmers

Metropolitan Agriculture
     Characteristics of Metro Farms
     Adaptive Metro-Farmers
     Problems and Opportunities
          Solar Farming
Minimizing Conflicts with Farmers: Regulatory Approaches
     Urban Growth Boundaries
     Agricultural Protection Zoning
     Related Variations: Sliding Scale, ABAZ
Purchasing Development Rights
     PDRs Paying for Themselves in Suburbia
Saving Farmland with Creative Subdivision Design
Two Decades of Rural Clustering in Howard County, Maryland
Low Density Agricultural Clustering in San Luis Obispo County, California
Landowner Compacts
Role of Land Trusts in Protecting Farmland
Agricultural Urbanism and Agrarian Urbanism
Continuing Concerns

18. TDRs in Small Communities

Early History and Examples
Local Success Stories in Three New Jersey Townships
Large-Scale Conservation by Combining TDRs with Master Planning
Special Challenges in Many Small Towns
Lessons Learned
Single Successes: Still Worth Achieving
Multiple Transactions in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Other Examples, and Density-Exchange Option
Commercial Conversions with TDR
Transferring Density without TDRs: Density Transfer Charges

19. Designing Subdivisions to Save Land

Short History
The Planning and Regulatory Network
The Four-Step Design Process
Open Space Networks
Calculating Density
Density Bonuses and Penalties
Addressing Public Concerns
Ownership Maintenance, and Liability Issues
Consumer Preferences
Developer Issues
Conservation Design in Sewered Areas
Notable Initiatives and Achievements by States, Counties, and Municipalities
Canadian Provinces
Stewardship and Large-Scale Conservation in the West

Part Six: Case Examples

20. In-Town Residential

Radburn, Fairlawn, NJ
Brown’s Farm, Kingston, RI
St. Alban’s Neighborhood, Davidson, NC
Hawthorne Corner, Nanaimo, BC
Village Homes, Davis, CA
Warwick Grove, Warwick, NY
The Cottages, Moscow, ID
East Lake Commons, Atlanta, GA
Summerfield, Elverson, PA
Affordable Housing
Battle Road Farm, Lincoln, MA
Orchard Gardens, Missoula, MT
Poplar Gardens, Boulder, CO
Austerbruin Affordable Housing, Silverdale, WA
Bungalow Courts
Third Street Cottages, Langley, WA
Chico Beach Cottages, Silverdale, WA

21. Rural Residential

Jarvis Farm, Westford, MA
Partridgeberry Place, Ipswich, MA
Trim’s Ridge, New Shoreham, RI
The Pines, North Oaks, MN
Meadows at Dolly Gordon Brook, York, ME
Alexandria Trilogy, Alexandria, NJ
Chimney Rock, Flower Mound, TX
Hunter's Pointe, Hamburg Township, MI
Winfield, Doylestown Township, PA
Indian Walk, Doylestown, PA
Ponds at Woodward, Kennett Township, PA
Paternal Gift Farm, Howard County, MD
The Preserve at Hunter’s Lake, Ottawa, WI
Tryon Farm, Michigan City, IN
Fields of St. Croix, Lake Elmo, MN
Fields at Cold Harbor, Hanover County, VA
Birch Hollow and Dobbins Creek, Loudoun County, VA
Farmcolony, Green County, VA
Ranch at Roaring Fork, Carbon County, CO
Heartwood Co-Housing, La Plata County, CO
Skokomish Farms, Mason County, WA

22. Large-Scale Mixed Use Projects

Weatherstone, West Vincent Township, PA
Montgomery Farm and Watters Creek, Allen, TX
Serenbe, Chattahoochie Hills, GA
Old York Village, Chesterfield, NJ

23. Downtown Commercial and Mixed Use

199 East Pearl, Jackson, WY
McDonald’s, Freeport, ME
Rite-Aid, Camden, ME
Gold Dust, Missoula, MT
Cedar Street Bridge Shops, Sandpoint, ID
Winslow Green, Bainbridge Island, WA
Tontine Mall, Brunswick ME
Village Square, Cedar, Vancouver Island, BC
Bow Street Market, Freeport, ME
Kent Town Center, Kent CT
Kent Village Barns, Kent, CT
Village Commons, South Hadley, MA
Old Main Street, Pewaukee, WI
Southport Green, Southport, CT
Redeveloping Two Downtown Corners in Davidson, NC
Downtown Redevelopment, Oxford, OH
Three NJ Downtowns: Cranford, Collingswood, and Plainsboro
BoDo, Boise, ID
Public Art

24. Highway Corridor Mixed Uses

Mill Village, Sudbury, MA
Mattick’s Farm, Saanich, BC
Birmingham Crossroads, Milton, GA
Red Brick Farm, Mayville, NY
Mad River Green and Village Square, Waitsfield, VT
South County Commons, South Kingstown, RI
Livingston Town Center, Livingston, NJ
Washington Town Center, Robbinsville, NJ
Smyrna, GA
Mashpee Commons, Mashpee, MA
Carriage House Square, Brodheadsville, PA

25. Greenways and Greenway Developments

Carolina Thread Trail
Daylighting Little Sugar Creek, Charlotte, NC
Indian Creek Daylighting, Caldwell, ID
Hawksbill Greenway, Luray, VA
String of Pearls Trail, Kitsap County, WA
The Peninsula Neighborhood, Iowa City, IA
Valley West, Bozeman, MT
Village Grande, East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, PA
Viera West, Brevard County, FL
Trail Master Planning in Omaha, NB



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