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EPA Smart Growth Assistance to advance collaborative planning in Billings

Release Date: 04/03/2012
Contact Information: Richard Mylott, USEPA Region 8, 303-312-6654; Candi Beaudry, City of Billings, 406-657-8249

EPA Smart Growth Assistance to advance collaborative planning in Billings

Project will complement ongoing City efforts to promote safe, healthy and accessible schools

(Denver, Colo. – April 3, 2012) At an event at Highland Elementary School in Billings, Mont., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today presented a technical assistance award to the City of Billings to develop a model for collaborative planning that aligns school planning with community revitalization, affordable housing, and transportation plans. EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin joined Billings School Superintendent, Jack Copps, School PTA President, Nicole Chakos and Montana Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Taylor Lonsdale, in making the announcement, which is among five awards being announced nationally under EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) program.

The Billings SGIA project will develop a collaborative planning process that engages the public and provides a model for integrating school siting issues with current and future planning efforts. The overall goal of the City’s effort is to enhance economic opportunity and community wellbeing by creating better access to schools, housing and transportation.

“Billings is a model for other communities seeking to make sure that sustainable planning includes healthier school environments for kids,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s Regional Administrator. “EPA’s assistance will help inform strategic school siting decisions and will result in safe, healthy and accessible schools.”

EPA’s technical support includes helping the City incorporate new voluntary guidelines for school siting into long-term planning activities. In October 2011, EPA announced these guidelines to assist school districts and communities in selecting environmentally safe and healthy locations for schools. The guidelines give local communities tools to help consider environmental health issues when identifying potential school locations and recommendations for involving the public at key points in the site selection process.

EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program helps communities address development challenges in ways that improve the economy, the environment and people’s health. EPA will then replicate that assistance, which is provided based on the communities’ requests, to other places facing similar challenges.

In 2012, the following applicants will receive technical assistance, valued at a total of $300,000 to $350,000:

    State of Vermont – EPA will help communities in the Mad River Valley recover from flood damage and become more resilient to future natural disasters.
    Madison County, N.Y. – EPA will help the county explore options for smart growth strategies that preserve the county’s rural way of life.
    Spokane Indian Reservation, Eastern Washington – EPA will help the Spokane Tribe of Indians develop a comprehensive water infrastructure plan.
    San Francisco, Calif. – EPA will help San Francisco develop a citywide district energy plan.
    Billings, Mont. – EPA will help Billings develop a model for collaborative planning that aligns school siting with community revitalization, affordable housing, and transportation plans.

In addition to helping the selected recipients with their development challenges, the program aims to create models that will catalyze similar projects across the country, identify common barriers to more environmentally and economically sustainable communities, and create new tools other communities can use.

Since 2005 EPA has supported 31 Smart Growth Implementation Assistance projects, serving dozens of communities. For example, in 2008, EPA worked with the City of Phoenix, City of Mesa and Valley Metro Transit to develop a menu of policies that support station area development in ways that enhance property values. As a direct result of this work, a $20 million dollar Sustainable Communities fund was created to finance the construction of affordable housing, grocery stores, child care facilities, sidewalks and other essential elements of healthy and equitable neighborhoods.

The projects are coordinated through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a joint effort of EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The interagency collaboration coordinates federal investments in infrastructure, facilities and services to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently. The partnership is helping communities across the country create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments and support vibrant neighborhoods that attract new business.

More information on the SGIA and the selected communities:

More information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities: