New Futures workshop focused on sustainable development methods

Chris Duerksen Chris Duerksen

Chris Duerksen, a nationally known proponent of adopting community development codes that directly address sustainability issues, headlined “Imagining New Futures,” an annual urban planning workshop, Nov. 15 – 17 at Texas A&M.

Hosted by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the Association of Student Planners, the workshop focused on sustainable planning and land development for students, academicians and professionals in the fields of urban planning, land development, landscape architecture and urban and regional science. Registered participants will qualify for continuing education credits.

Duerksen, managing director of Clarion Associates, LLC, a national land-use consulting firm, talked about strategies for sustainable development in a Nov. 15 keynote lecture and led a five-hour workshop Nov. 16.

The event also included an array of optional social activities, including a Nov. 16 nighttime mixer at the Fox & Hound, a Nov. 17 clay shooting session and eco-tour at the nearby Tonkaway Ranch, and a tailgate party prior to Texas A&M’s Nov. 17 football game against Sam Houston State University.

Duerkson is cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute and has represented local governments, nonprofits, and the private sector in a variety of land-use and zoning matters, He is an advocate of development codes that address energy conservation and production by, for instance, requiring that subdivisions be laid out to take advantage of solar power, or by removing impediments to using compact residential wind turbines.

“We must act now — there is no time to lose,” wrote Duerkson in “Saving the World Through Zoning” a 2008 article in an American Planning Association publication. “Polar ice is melting at an alarming rate. We are beginning to run out of fossil fuels just when China and India are creating enormous new demands. A global population surge will gobble up enormous amounts of food just as our land base is being diverted to fuel crops … obesity continues to soar in western countries.”

He argues municipalities can address these issues by revamping zoning models that, for example, stifle mixed-use developments and contribute to sprawl.

“A recent issue of ‘Time’ magazine devoted to global warming provided a list of 51 steps the average person can take to save the planet, including 13 pertinent to land use and zoning regulations like ‘ditching the McMansion’ and installing compact wind turbines,” he said.

Duerksen is a land use lawyer with more than 20 years’ experience. He has represented clients in a variety of land-use and zoning matters and specializes in:

  • development codes and other land development regulations;
  • growth management plans and studies;
  • historic preservation plans and regulations;
  • natural resource and scenic area protection strategies; and
  • airport-area development.

He received a law degree from the University of Chicago and an undergraduate liberal arts degree from Kansas State College. His numerous projects have included development codes and growth management plans for a variety of large and small jurisdictions around the country.

A member of the Illinois Bar Association, Duerksen has authored many books and articles on land use and conservation issues, including Takings Law in Plain EnglishNature-Friendly Communities: Habitat Protection and Land Use Planning, and Aesthetics, Community Character, and the Law.

Duerkson is managing director of Clarion Associates, a national land-use and real estate consulting firm with offices in seven U.S. cities that provide public and private-sector clients with urban design, environmental assessment and community planning services. 


The 2011 “Imagining New Futures” featured Randall Arendt, the nation's foremost authority on conservation development, who conducted a workshop focusing on designing residential habitats that protect natural resources while creating value for developers and property owners.

posted July 10, 2012