The creation of the New Designs for Growth Development Guidebook, the current evolution of the Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook, represents a continuation of efforts to demonstrate how development can occur while protecting natural resources. In the early 1990s, public recognition of the need for development that complements and protects the region’s unique beauty, diverse natural resources, and exceptional recreational opportunities prompted creation of the first edition of the Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook. A public-private effort from its inception, the Guidebook provided townships in the five-county region (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau) examples of development practices that would accommodate growth while maintaining and improving quality of life for residents for years to come. The effort of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce to inform local government officials of guidebook principles and implementation methods led to the formation of New Designs for Growth (NDFG). A decade later, community feedback revealed the need for an updated version of the Guidebook. The second edition built off principles in the first but was expanded to include protection and improvement of established and evolving urban centers. In 2000, following two years of hard work by the dedicated volunteers on the Chamber’s New Designs for Growth Guidebook Revision Subcommittee, a revised edition was issued.

In 2005, responding to intensified community desire for developments that enhance existing settlements and protect valuable natural resources, New Designs for Growth retained R. Clark Associates, Inc. to lead concerned citizens and area officials in the revision of the Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook. Input from a broad spectrum of community members shaped this revision: over eighteen months of focus groups and information gathering sessions provided a solid base of public and private sector input, as well as a survey of over a thousand elected and appointed government representatives in the five-county region and results of the Vision in GTC and L.E.A.M. studies. The RCAI team worked closely with a content advisory committee to ensure the Guidebook reflects the region’s diverse needs. The New Designs for Growth Development Guidebook includes proactive approaches to development in the region, and the techniques are applicable to both new development and to redevelopment projects. The Guidebook demonstrates how thoughtful, quality design can improve our rural, suburban, and urban environments by creating sustainable developments of economic value that protect our natural resources.

The revision of the Guidebook has always been a collaborative, public-private process. It has also taken a balanced approach to change in the region. Neither anti- or pro-growth, the Guidebook stems from the premise that growth is inevitable and that development, with good planning and design, can be compatible with the environment. Throughout the revision process, the underlying goals of the original guidebook have endured. These include:

  • Protecting the region’s natural and rural landscape character
  • Demonstrating how development can complement the natural landscape, farmland, and scenic views
  • Providing economically and environmentally sustainable alternatives to conventional development practices
  • Encouraging good design beyond legal restrictions and minimum standards
  • Promoting the renovation, remediation, and adaptive reuse of existing sites
  • Promoting the preservation and improvement of historical and cultural resources
  • Encouraging the preservation and enhancement of communities

Communities throughout the five-county region have choices, and the Guidebook serves as a reference manual on ways to achieve development which protects both community character and people’s choices and opportunities. The R. Clark Associates, Inc. revision team is honored to have lead the transformation of the Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook into the New Designs for Growth Development Guidebook – a manual that will aid concerned citizens, public officials, and developers in their efforts to guide growth by creating environmental, economical, and equitable development throughout the five-county region.