Friday, December 18, 2015

Ladd Keith, Planning Lecturer and Coordinator of the Sustainable Built Environments program, had the opportunity to serve on an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Service Panel focused on climate change resilience for St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit of 36,000 members globally including land developers, engineers, public officials, academics, lenders, architects, planners and urban designers. ULI has been offering the Advisory Service Panel for over 65 years, which aims to bring impartial national expertise to communities in need.

St. Tammany Parish is located in Louisiana, just north of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. Approximately 1,124 square miles in size, it is important to note that 279 square miles of that is water, and much of the land is made up of wetlands. Up until recently, it was mainly a rural community with the main incorporated cities being Slidell and Covington, but recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) have led to a huge regional migration out of New Orleans. Population grew from 29% from 191,268 in 2000 to an estimated 245,829 in 2015. The parish is currently facing the challenges of urban sprawl and gridlocked traffic, an uncertain economic future, and future threats from sea level rise and stronger storms from climate change.

The five day panel format included an extensive review of background materials, tours of the community, stakeholder interviews, brainstorming and the writing of recommendations, a public presentation, and finally the production of a report for the St. Tammany Parish. From the work the panel conducted over the week, they identified three key areas of challenge for the parish that would directly impact their resilience against future climate change impacts:

·         Growth is imminent

·         There are no simple solutions

·         The economic models of the past are not sustainable

The panel also worked to create a model of development for a study area of future growth that we coined, “Village in the Woods”, which would concentrate development in appropriate areas at a higher density, preserving natural wetlands as a critical buffer in flood events. While mass transit is not currently feasible in the parish, a network of woodland bicycle and pedestrian trails was recommended to supplement the road network.

In addition to the “Village in the Woods” model, other final recommendations from the panel during their public presentation on December 11th included:

•        Collaborate and cooperate for a consistent economic development strategy

•        Refresh and update the comprehensive plan

•        Master plan the study area as a pilot and model for resilience

•        Develop portfolio of transportation solutions beyond building roads

•        Deliberately create a range of housing choices

•        Implement the Water Quality Plan as part of holistic strategy to address water in St. Tammany Parish

•        Implement new funding strategies for necessary services


A final report on the panel's recommendations will be published in early 2016 by the ULI Advisory Service Panel.