Ithaca, New York in the Finger Lakes region is known for its natural beauty. Its dramatic landscape of pastoral hills and valleys, deep gorges, rushing waterfalls, and glittering lakes have created many faithful residents and visitors passionate about protecting the area’s scenic resources. In places like Ithaca, urban planners, architects, and developers must be especially sensitive to how the built environment can preserve and complement the natural environment, not interfere with it. What can planners and urban designers do to prevent developmental encroachment on natural beauty? What does the government have to say?
In Ithaca, the local government understands that the area’s scenic resources are a valuable economic, recreational, and environmental asset. It’s putting together a report that analyzes particularly magnificent views in the Town (draft available on the Town of Ithaca website), in an effort to understand where future physical development would not block scenic overlooks or significantly change viewsheds. The Town has recently passed legislation regulating the placement and appearance of telecommunication towers and wind turbines, hoping to minimize the visual impact of these (typically) eyesores. In all of New York State, development proposals must include a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). This is meant to analyze whether the proposal might impair the quality of important historical, architectural, environmental, and aesthetic resources or existing community character of an area.
Those who submit development proposals will gain approval from local residents, tourists, P&Z boards, and environmental non-profits alike if their plans can showcase and preserve an area’s existing natural beauty. Some points that are considered in each proposal include:
- Providing an educational element about the near, mid, and far-distance views from your site, such as signage and benches for understanding and enjoying the views;
- Siting buildings where they have minimal visual impact. The lines, colors, and massing of structures should coordinate with their natural surroundings;
- Screening or hiding parking lots, mechanical equipment, and other unsightly necessities.
Maintaining the beauty and integrity of the natural environment is clearly an important element of sustainability. In what other ways can we preserve our scenic resources?
Credits: Images linked to sources.