land use distribution, zoning districts
parks and open space, water and air quality
Land use refers to the ways in which we choose to use land. Typically this involves the decision to either leave natural environments in their natural state or manipulate them into built environments such as croplands, pastures, and settlements. The nomenclature for land use categories varies geographically. Commonly referenced land use categories include, but are not limited to, the following: residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, open space, forestland, agriculture, wetlands, and water.
Why does land use matter?
Having healthy, productive lands in and around urban areas is an essential component of environmentally sound and healthy communities. As urban areas face continued pressure to develop working and ecological significant land, it becomes increasingly important for communities to be aware of the land that surrounds them and how it is or could be used. As we look to the future, an understanding of a region’s specific needs and demands on land use will help to promote health and vitality in our communities through strategic management of our working landscape and natural communities. For instance, when consumer products and services (e.g. locally grown food) are produced and consumed locally, the negative impacts (i.e. fuel/energy consumption and green house gas emissions) of long distance transport are reduced and the diversity of resource sector jobs is better maintained.
The indicators presented in this sub-category could be used to provide support for urban growth boundaries and land use policies while simultaneously driving the careful maintenance and expansion of land restoration and conservation programs to the extent practical.
How do we measure land use?
Zoning ordinances and regulations are among the most important tools municipalities can use to control land use and ultimately provide a better quality of life for its residents. And perhaps most importantly, zoning schemes are a means through which municipalities can protect and enhance individual neighborhoods with unique sets of issues and desires.
The Urban Initiative measures land use in Fall River and New Bedford through an examination of the city’s existing land use distribution and zoning scheme.
What does land use look like in Fall River?
1. Land Use Distribution
Over half–54% 0r 13,547 acres–of Fall River is forest, water, or unforested wetland, a majority of which is permanently protected as part of the Southeast Massachusetts Bioreserve or as a result of being designated watershed land.
Residential land use encompasses approximately 22.1% (or 3,368 acres) of Fall River. Residential lands can be further broken down as follows:
- Multi-family: 5.6% or 854 acres
- Less than 1/4 acre – 3.7% or 569 acres
- 1/4-1/2 acre – 9.3% or 1,409 acres
- Greater than 1/2 acre – 3.1% or 466 acres
Commercial, industrial, and institutional/office land uses encompass approximately 12% (or 1,839 acres) of Fall River. Of that, commercial land use encompasses 1.9% (or 293 acres), industrial land use encompasses 5.9% (or 900 acres), and institutional/office land uses encompass approximately 4.2% (or 646 acres).
2. Zoning Map
Land Use Map of Fall River can be downloaded here.
What does land use look like in New Bedford?
1.1 Land Use Distribution
Almost half (approximately 47%) of New Bedford consists of open spaces, of which 18.05% (or 2,343.03 acres) is classified as forested, 13.66% (or 1,772.72 acres) is classified as forested wetland, while the remainder is recreational.
Residential land use encompasses approximately 34% (or 4,366 acres) of New Bedford. Residential land use can be further broken down as follows:
- Multi family: 13.2% or 1,713.06 acres
- High Density (less than 1/4 acre): 17.06% or 2,214.65 acres
- Medium Density (1/4-1/2 acre): 2.53% or 327.96 acres
- Low Density (greater than 1/2 acre): 0.85% or 110.07 acres
Commercial, industrial, and transportation encompass approximately 18% ( or 2,231.69 acres) of New Bedford, of which, 5.71% (or 741.03 acres) is classified as commercial, 6.3% (or 817.45 acres) is classified as industrial, and 5.19% (or 673.21 acres) is classified as transportation.
1.2 Changes in Land Use Distribution
Residential and agriculture land uses have remained relatively stable in the 5-year span depicted above, while commercial, industrial, and transportation uses have decreased by nearly 3% and forest, wetlands, and open space have increased by 3%
2. Zoning Map
The Zoning Map of New Bedford can be downloaded here.
What’s being done to address land use, and where can I learn more?
Fall River’s Master Plan includes an implementation plan (p. 57/p. 68 of the PDF) which details the ways in which the city will implement its plan with regard to land use and other areas.
New Bedford is now charged with implementing its master plan, New Bedford 2020. Specific action steps are outlined in the plan’s work plan (Chapter 13; p. 129 of the PDF).
Data sources and methods
1-FR) Fall River Master Plan 2009. http://www.fallriverma.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_details&gid=150&Itemid=855
1-NB) City of New Bedford Master Plan 2010. Accessible at http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/newbedford/507969.pdf.