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Builders for the Bay is a non-profit organization intended to improve ecological aspects of residential and commercial development in the Chesapeake Bay area of the US.

The organization

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the first to experience the impacts of increased population and development pressures in ways that the rest of United States will be encountering in the coming decades. The unique nature its high land area to small water volume ratio makes the nutrient and sediment pollution flowing into the rivers and tributaries that feed the bay very problematic. (Turning the Tide; Tom Horton; Island Press; 2003; pg. 5) The runoff from new and existing development is one of the major sources of nutrient and sediment pollution.

Many communities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed from New York to Virginia are wary of the environmental problems associated with residential and commercial development, but few understand how to mitigate them. Research shows that one of the biggest barriers to implementing more environmentally sensitive site design practices is the existing codes and ordinances found at the local level.

That is why in 2001, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, under the leadership of its president David Bancroft, partnered with the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to launched a new partnership known as Builders for the Bay. The Builders for the Bay program encourages the voluntary adoption of up to 22 better site design principles that reduce the environmental effects of residential and commercial development.

The Builders for the Bay program outlines a process to engage the public and various stakeholders in a consensus process to provide more flexibility in the codes to allow for more environmentally sensitive development practices. This flexibility, combined with the economic benefits of such design principles, encourages those in the development industry to build subdivisions with fewer environmental impacts.

In 1997, the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) initiated a national site planning roundtable to convene stakeholders in a process to iron out model land development principles. The result was the development of 22 principles (see below), a consensus document and the development of a handbook entitled “Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community,” which includes technical information on how to utilize the 22 model development principles and how to conduct a local roundtable process. The guidance was based on the idea that national groups could help encourage local communities to adopt principles that simultaneously protected the environment and helped save developer's money. Many communities cannot currently practice these better site design principles because the existing local codes, ordinances and review processes often prohibit their utilization.

The overall objective of Builders for the Bay is to mitigate the environmental impacts of development by increasing stakeholder involvement in the process of local codes development and encouraging developers to utilize the flexibility inherent in better site design. The short-term goal is to form alliances that will engage local environmental groups, governments and developers of a community in a process to assess their current codes and ordinances. Long term, it is hoped that the facilitated process to change local codes and ordinances within these communities will have a long-lasting effect on how developments are regulated at the local level.

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