Piedmont Together Comprehensive Regional Plan

Places and Spaces



As our region grows, wise choices now help ensure future development maintains and enhances our quality of life, strengthens our economic well-being and conserves our natural and built environments.  Careful stewardship of our land, air, water, cultural and energy resources enables us to be more resilient.  Strategic investments in interconnected networks of natural, agricultural and recreational hubs and corridors provide the green infrastructure necessary for healthy ecosystems and wildlife habitats, and valuable recreation, tourism and agricultural opportunities.  Focused investments to expand transportation, housing and energy production choices improve the connectivity and efficiency of our communities and provide a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits to communities across our region.

Regional Advantage

Working together to foster the efficient and sustainable use of land, resources and energy, we can grow and diversify our economy while maintaining our health and high quality of life.  By focusing most new development in existing urban service areas, we enhance downtown vitality, conserve our rural and natural areas, promote greater connectivity, and provide more employment, housing and transportation choices.

See Places & Spaces Articles, Maps, Reports and Best Practices


Promote the efficient and sustainable use of land and resources.

Foster the efficient and sustainable use of land resources to increase the benefits and reduce the costs of future growth.

  • Focus most new development and infrastructure investments in existing communities where services and infrastructure already exist.
  • Pursue growth policies and regulations to support the efficient use of existing water, sewer and transportation infrastructure.
  • Identify and protect environmentally sensitive conservation areas and habitats and farm and forest lands.
  • Encourage infill, reuse and redevelopment of existing urban areas before developing rural farm and forest lands.
  • Encourage new development to be designed to accommodate future re-use and redevelopment.
  • Encourage new development that balances economic, social and environmental community interests.
  • Foster the assessment, clean-up and redevelopment of old commercial and industrial sites (i.e. brownfields).
  • Encourage transportation, water & sewer infrastructure plans that support and incorporate sustainable community development patterns and principles.
  • Encourage land development plans and ordinances that support proposed road functions and incorporate sustainable community patterns & principles.
  • Incentivize and streamline the approval process for the kind of sustainable development patterns communities decide they want in the future.

Build vibrant, lively and attractive neighborhood & town centers with a mix of higher-density uses in areas communities identify as most appropriate.

  • Foster functional, pedestrian-friendly and attractive design that supports economic, environmental and social interests.
  • Identify top-priority opportunity areas for redevelopment of under-utilized sites into mixed-use reinvestment areas and corridors which are accessible by multiple modes of transportation.
  • Support site planning for redevelopment areas in our region's communities to serve as sustainable reinvestment pilot projects.
  • Pursue flexible land use policies and regulations allowing higher densities and a wider mixture of uses in redevelopment areas and town centers.

Provide more housing choices with greater access to jobs and services.

  • Incentivize affordable housing options, especially along major transit corridors.
  • Foster collaborative partnerships between public & private sectors in the provision of affordable housing.
  • Encourage development of housing, jobs and services in close proximity to one another.

Pursue farmland and open space protection.

  • Support the Voluntary Agricultural District program.
  • Support land conservation and open space protection efforts.
  • Identify programs that protect land and water quality in rural areas (e.g. WHIP, EQIP, NC-WRP) and insure they are in place in the region.

Promote Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and green construction support.

  • Consider LEED-affirmed permit fee rebates.
  • Allow reduced permit fees for green energy installations (e.g. solar, geo-thermal, etc.)
  • Provide information, resources and best practice advice to developers regarding LEED certification.

Provide pedestrian connectivity planning and support.

  • Connect sidewalks, trails and bike paths to provide a more complete network of transportation choices — especially among major residential areas, employment and commercial areas, and community landmarks and gathering areas.

Enhance the economic and social vitality of our region's downtowns.

Initiate façade and beautification programs for downtown buildings, sidewalks and streetscapes.

  • Establish façade and awning loan or grant programs.
  • Pursue budgeted town streetscape improvements (e.g. light posts, hanging plants/flowers, benches).
  • Consider a downtown service district fee to provide specific additional services (e.g. street cleaning, trash collection, repair, security).

Promote engaging community activities and cultural offerings.

  • Create or expand downtown arts or food festivals highlighting offerings from local businesses.
  • Establish regularly scheduled downtown "days" or "nights" with music, food, business bargains and festivities.

Support private sector activities and investments.

  • Consider permit fee reductions for downtown up-fits, redevelopment and development of vacant land (i.e. infill).
  • Encourage efforts to promote downtown businesses (e.g. downtown directories, maps, online advertising).
  • Work with non-profit organizations to fill long-term unleased space to keep unfilled space at a minimum.
  • Encourage local business shopping promotions.

Access outside assistance (e.g. NC STEP & NC Main Street Programs for small towns).

Promote the agricultural economy by organizing greater connectivity among local farms and urban centers.

Create Food Policy Councils in each county of the Piedmont Triad.

  • Ensure broad levels of participation in programs to address food sustenance and hunger issues (e.g. local schools, social service organizations, churches).
  • Facilitate cooperation among food policy councils to maximize their impact.

Develop local Farmers Markets.

  • Initiate a process (e.g. led by the local Food Policy Council) to build or expand a farmers market using public and private resources.
  • Contact potential agricultural participants to gauge interest and a preferred scope of market operations (e.g. days, hours, facilities).

Develop a region-wide local food network.

  • Perform an assessment of market supply/demand and opportunities.
  • Explore formation of a region-wide distribution system to deliver fresh produce and farm products from rural counties to urban markets (e.g. Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax).

Establish regional & local food processing and distribution co-ops and collectives.

  • Identify the production capacity of existing or potential agricultural products (e.g. grape production for wine, purple sweet potatoes, hops for beer).
  • Work with current processors to expand capacity or create a new processing facility as necessary to provide a local bulk market for agricultural products (e.g. a former grist mill or grain elevator, grape processing or winery; Biofuels processing; Inland fish processing.)

Promote greater community connectivity.

Enhance pedestrian, biking and trail options.

  • Add connective pieces to existing infrastructure (e.g. sidewalks, trails, bike lanes) to provide safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle transportation options between residential areas and work, school and commercial centers in communities.
  • Pursue grant opportunities (e.g. PARTF, others) to access funding for pedestrian and bike system expansion.
  • Create community bike-share programs that provide a healthy transit option, reduce automotive traffic and add a sense of vibrancy to communities.

Pursue greater public transit options for dependent and non-dependent riders (especially in and among urban centers).

  • Enhance public transit by increasing access, connectivity, reliability and timeliness for dependent riders and to encourage non-dependent riders to elect to use public transit systems.
  • Explore electric or bus trolley systems for downtown mobility in urban centers to provide an attractive transit option and enhance economic development opportunities in downtown areas.

Increase social connectivity, including engaging diverse communities, newcomers and young and elderly adults.

  • Encourage communities to provide inclusive community outreach and engagement efforts in all neighborhoods that build relationships, help to identify and affirm a diversity of interests, and encourage everyone to contribute to the good of the community.
  • Establish community-wide events that engage and celebrate the diversity of the entire community.

Increase the resilience of the region's existing green infrastructure and decrease the Piedmont Triad's vulnerability to climate change.

Protect the Piedmont Triad's water supply and quality.

  • Protect water quality for drinking water, recreation, and ecological habitat purposes through watershed management, low impact development, and using best management practices for all land uses.
  • Protect water supplies through watershed management, utilizing water conservation pricing, infrastructure maintenance, and employing new, more efficient plumbing standards including water reuse. (CAE related)
  • Manage Stormwater: Collaborate with the regional council and municipal/county stormwater management and planning departments on integrated watershed plans that factor in climate change and use innovative measures to manage stormwater.
  • Manage sediment: Collaborate with the regional council, municipal planning departments, and county agricultural organizations (Soil & Water Conservation Districts) on practices and policies that minimize erosion and stabilize streambanks to reduce sediment loss.
  • Adopt a regional green infrastructure plan and implement key principles of regional green infrastructure and urban green design.

Ensure the persistence of the Triad's agricultural heritage.

  • Work with NRCS, NCSU Cooperative Extension, and other partners to develop outreach strategies that ensure all federal and state programs that promote sustainable agricultural practices are available to the region's farmers.
  • Work with public, non-profit, and private sector partners to make farming a viable lifestyle and career for younger generations.
  • Assess which crops are most vulnerable to climate change impacts (hotter, drier summers; wetter, warmer winters) and develop a mitigation or adaptation strategy to either ensure the success of existing crops or promote the transition to new staple crops. (CAE related)
  • Work with public, non-profit, and private sector partners to promote "Farm-to-Fork" food systems that both support the local agricultural sector and promote healthier communities.
  • Identify weaknesses in the existing regional food distribution system and address them with the institution of new farmers markets, commissaries, and/or food centers.
  • Identify communities that do not have access to healthy, affordable foods, and develop a program to deliver locally-grown foods to them.

Preserve Piedmont Triad plants, trees, wildlife and natural landscapes.

  • Identify natural features that provide multiple public benefits such as hunting or swimming, better assess their economic value to the region, and develop a regional marketing strategy to promote them throughout the state and the Southeast.
  • Identify urban communities without access to tree canopy cover, recreational resources like parks or greenways, and/or natural landscapes, and develop plans to rectify this inequity.(CAE Related)
  • Identify priority species and habitats that remain unprotected.
  • Revisit and update approved urban plantings lists to favor or encourage native North Carolina Piedmont species which are heat and drought tolerant. (CAE Related)
  • Identify those species most vulnerable to the Triad's anticipated impacts from climate change (hotter, drier summers; wetter, warmer winters) and develop a transition or mitigation strategy for their survival.(CAE Related)
  • Identify species most effective at providing ecosystems services, but especially stormwater management and urban heat island mitigation and prioritize their use throughout all communities. (CAE Related)
  • In both the urban and rural environments, track invasive species and the migration of species northward and up slope as climate changes. (CAE Related)
  • Adopt a regional green infrastructure plan and implement key principles of regional green infrastructure and urban green design.

Decrease the Piedmont Triad's vulnerability to wildfires.

  • Monitor and track conditions conducive to wildfire hazard.
  • Identify areas most vulnerable to wildfires based on climate change predictions for hotter, drier summers.
  • Work with state and federal forestry services and land owners to manage lands and reduce wildfire risk.
  • Continue and bolster wildfire risk education.

Reduce the vulnerability of Piedmont Triad residents to health risks associated with weather-related hazards.

  • Track public health trends such as rates of asthma and heat-related hospital visits based on heat waves and other weather events.
  • Increase efforts related to maintaining the well-being of persons whose work requires them to be exposed to the elements educating employers as well as employees with particular focus on agriculture and landscaping businesses. (CAE Related)
  • Develop an outreach strategy with EMS programs and the health care system to ensure that the region's most vulnerable populations are aware of the risks of hotter, drier conditions, flash flooding, and other climate change impacts, and that they are aware of what relief resources they may rely upon for safety and shelter.
  • Monitor changes in rates of infections of vector borne diseases according to weather events such as summertime flooding. (CAE Related)
  • Enhance all urban tree canopies to at least 40% coverage to mitigate the urban heat island effect. This coverage must be universal to all communities and ensure equity of distribution. (CAE Related)
  • Develop a relocation transition strategy for those living in floodplains so that they can live in safer conditions. (CAE Related)
  • Create the built environment with ecological services in mind in order to take advantage of mitigation of natural weather extremes through green infrastructure.

Engaged and responsible businesses and government sectors.

  • Work with businesses and governments to analyze their vulnerability to climate change and take action.
  • Take particular note of the tourism and outdoor recreation markets which are very strong in the Piedmont Triad and very susceptible to extreme weather events.
  • Development mechanisms to appropriately value working and wild lands reflecting the economic and ecological services these lands provide.
  • Work with energy providers on innovative ways which do not rely on chemical spraying or the destruction of tree canopy to decrease the vulnerability to weather related hazards of energy delivery systems.
  • Adopt a regional green infrastructure plan and implement key principles of regional green infrastructure and urban green design.

Plan for future challenges.

  • Use the Consortium Oversight Committee to assign and oversee climate adaptation implementation efforts, assess plan implementation, recommend revisions, report to towns, counties and all Piedmont Triad residents on implementation progress.

Improve long-term energy security, economic well-being, and air quality in the Piedmont Triad through energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Increase the number of renewable energy projects.

  • Invest in electric and thermal solar energy technologies.
  • Investigate feasibility of a large-scale biomass processing facility for agriculture and forestry waste and perennial crops.
  • Improve existing hydropower facilities.
  • Continue expansion of landfill gas recovery projects (LFG).
  • Investigate smart grid and energy storage potential opportunities.
  • Encourage use of residential geothermal heat-exchange systems.
  • Explore and pilot the development of shared renewable energy.
  • Develop or expand educational programming on energy efficiency.

Increase the number of energy efficiency projects.

  • Improve energy efficiency at the residential scale through identifying and weatherizing homes built prior to 1975 building code requirements.
  • Increase the use of energy efficient appliances through education, incentive and buyback programs.
  • Investigate market structures which minimize upfront investment in energy efficiency technologies during construction for commercial facilities.
  • Identify funding mechanisms to make large scale energy-efficiency improvements to industrial facilities.
  • Identify energy-efficiency retrofit opportunities and establish a funding mechanism for commercial and industrial buildings.
  • Work with nonprofit agencies, Duke Energy and North Carolina's Department of Commerce and Agriculture to simplify retrofit processes for residential, commercial and industrial building owners.
  • Develop or expand educational programming on renewable energy.
  • Pursue Energy Star certification for K-12 schools.

Boost the regional economy and keep dollars local through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

  • Promote the development of energy efficient and renewable technology programs and partnerships through research facilities and in the college and university systems.
  • Identify contaminated lands which may be unsuitable for traditional development and investigate suitable renewable energy opportunities.
  • Utilize the region's strong network of existing infrastructure from vacant factories and mills to foster the production of new energy technologies.
  • Identify a funding mechanism to support an early program stimulus investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy .
  • Encourage or provide incentives to business and policy leaders to implement efficiency measures or utilize energy from renewable resources.

Adopt energy efficiency policies and programs for local governments.

  • Conduct an energy audit all municipal and county facilities and address shortfalls.
  • Require LEED certification or increased energy efficiency standards on new government buildings.
  • Provide incentives to developers using energy efficient technologies (e.g., expedited permitting).
  • Improve energy efficiency of local government operations (e.g., buildings, vehicle fleets).
  • Encourage water efficiency measures through ordinances, education, leak detection, conservation pricing of water and sewer services, plumbing efficiency standards and landscape irrigation ordinances.

Reduce emissions through improved transportation systems.

  • Support the development of fuel efficient vehicles and use of alternative fuels.
  • Improve the general efficiency of the transportation network.
  • Support alternative modes of transportation including mass transportation, greenways, and car/bicycle sharing programs.
  • Encourage counties and municipalities to purchase alternative fuel vehicles and train staff on efficient driving techniques.


Regional Scenario Model — Modeling software was used to show where new homes and jobs might go based on existing trends and 3 alternative growth scenarios. The best outcomes of each scenario were combined to form a recommended "Preferred Growth Scenario" supporting greater efficiency, connectivity and conservation.
Dollars and Sense: The True Cost and Benefit of Downtown Development
Eight local design and redevelopment workshops
Green Infrastructure in the Piedmont Triad webinar
Green Infrastructure Survey (about 300 participants)
Extreme Weather Preparedness at the Regional Level workshop
Regional Energy Report
Regional Green Infrastructure Report
Regional Climate Adaptation Plan
Piedmont Triad Green Infrastructure Inventory