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When considering the future growth and development of our community it is important to have an understanding of the terms that are often used by planners, developers, and elected officials.

Below is a list of terms that are likely to come up in discussions as we work through the development of this plan.

Activity Centers

Areas of more intense, compact, mixed-use development including commercial, office, civic and multifamily residential uses. Activity centers can vary in size and mix of uses and their service areas can range from the neighborhood to the regional level.

Adaptive Reuse

The repurposing of an existing building for a use it may not have been originally designed for. Older industrial buildings and disused civic buildings are often candidates for adaptive reuse into commercial or residential buildings.

Affordable Housing

The availability of housing that requires less than 30 percent of a resident’s income.


Area Plan

A plan used to interpret the comprehensive plan on a more localized geographic scale. There are currently 16 area plans that analyze existing local characteristics, trends, problems and opportunities of each geographic area. Area plans are meant to serve as guides for the Planning Board, local citizens, and elected officials when making zoning, public investment, and other planning decisions.

Available Land 

Land that is either vacant or underdeveloped. Under-developed land is defined as tracts larger than five acres in size with improvement values less than $150,000 for commercial/industrial uses or less than $300,000 for residential uses.


Property where the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant may pose complications for the expansion of development, redevelopment, or reuse of the land.

Climate Change

The long-term shifts in the temperatures and weather patterns. While these shifts may be due to nature causes, such as variations in the solar cycle, the predominant cause of climate change since the nineteenth century has been human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal). 

Complete Communities

Walkable communities that provide a variety of places to live and convenient access to jobs, multimodal transportation options, community facilities, recreation, green space and access to healthy food. They are comprised of people from diverse age groups, backgrounds and incomes.



The amount of residential development on a parcel based on acreage. It is measured as dwelling units per acre. 

Economic Mobility

The ability of an individual or family to change their economic status. It is most often used to described an ability to improve one's economic status particularly as it relates to children raised in poverty.


Fair access to livelihood, education and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the community; and self-determination in meeting fundamental needs.

Food Desert

A geographic area where residents have little or no access to affordable, nutritious food. A food desert is often characterized by low-income neighborhoods that have been neglected by supermarket retailers and other fresh food vendors. Residents of these neighborhoods are forced to travel longer distances to acquire healthy foods and often many residents cannot afford to make healthy food choices due to socioeconomic circumstances.

Green Infrastructure

An approach to stormwater management that reduces the volume of polluted runoff from entering streams and pipe systems through natural systems such as green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement and/or cisterns. 

Growth Management Areas (GMAs)

Land use planning areas designated in Forsyth County’s Growth Management Plan. Legacy 2030 Growth Management Plan Map


Growth Management Area 1 (GMA 1 – City/Town Centers): An area including Downtown Winston-Salem and the centers of Forsyth County’s small towns. It promotes a dense, mixed-use, and pedestrian-oriented urban form and is the hub for government and private employment.

Growth Management Area 2 (GMA 2 – Urban Neighborhoods): The area of Winston-Salem built primarily before 1950. This part of the “old city” includes intermixed areas of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development featuring smaller lots, sidewalks and a grid street pattern.

Growth Management Area 3 (GMA 3 – Suburban Neighborhoods): An area consisting of neighborhoods built after World War II, and is where most development has occurred in recent decades. The area has a more separated growth pattern of different land uses with subdivisions that cater to specific housing styles and price ranges, featuring curvilinear streets that often lack connectivity.

Growth Management Area 4 (GMA 4 – Future Growth Area): An area adjacent to GMA 3 that does not currently have public sewer or other public infrastructure necessary to support urban or suburban development. Significant development in this area is discouraged until plans for development are prepared and utilities become available. Once these services are available, sites in GMA 4 should be treated the same as GMA 3 when making land use recommendations.

Growth Management Area 5 (GMA 5 – Rural Area): An area located at the fringes of Forsyth County and beyond the area that can be provided with public sewer and other services in a cost-effective manner. This area is intended to remain very low-density residential and agricultural in character.

Growth Management Plan (GMP)

A plan for growth and development intended to reduce sprawl, create a more compact and balanced urban development pattern, and preserve open space and rural character.

Heat Island Effect

Increases in temperature in urbanized areas versus natural or rural areas due to the sun's heat being absorbed and re-emitted by buildings and roads. Click for graphic (credit:

Infill Development

Development practices focused on areas that are being underutilized. Infill development seeks to concentrate activities (see Activity Centers) and maximize usage of transit opportunities as well as existing infrastructure.

Land Banking

A method used to buy land that may be unprofitable or undesirable by developers initially, but will eventually become more desirable as demand increases.


The factors that create a high quality of life for a community’s residents including but not limited to buildings; natural spaces; economic prosperity; social stability; educational and training opportunities; health and wellness; and cultural, entertainment, and recreation amenities. 

Livable Communities

Communities with an enhanced quality of life as reflected in their built and natural environments, economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, and cultural, entertainment, and recreation possibilities.

Low-Impact Development

An approach to land development that uses various land planning and design practices and technologies to simultaneously conserve and protect natural resource systems and reduce infrastructure costs.


Mixed-Use Development

A development that seeks to integrate differing land-uses into a single developed and contiguous whole. There are two major types of mixed-use buildings. Vertical mixed-use buildings have different uses on different floors. Horizontal mixed-use development occurs when two differing land uses are planned adjacent to one another with connecting road and pedestrian access.



A transportation system that is designed to serve more than one mode of transportation, such as automobiles, transit, bikes, and sidewalks.

Open Space

A term describing land reserved specifically for conservation and public use.



A law enacted by a municipal or other local government body.



A discriminatory practice by which banks, insurance companies, etc., refuse or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc., within specific geographic areas, especially with marginalized or low-income populations. The term comes from a series of maps that were commissioned by the federal government in the 1930s to show areas recommended for investment. Click to see Winston-Salem's 1937 redlining map.

(A)    GREEN:  Best – all city conveniences, uniform construction, highly restricted, inhabitants live in large & medium single homes, were “capitalists” with family incomes above $4000.   No one considered a "Negro" lived in this area.
(B)    BLUE:   Still Desirable (White)
(C)    YELLOW:  Definitely Declining  (White and Black)
(D)    PINK:  Hazardous (Black)

Residential Building Type

The design style of a residential building - detached, single-family versus an attached dwelling unit (i.e. townhouse or multifamily development). Click for residential style guide.


The ability to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. Resiliency planning encompasses a multitude of areas including natural and environmental hazards, economic development strategies, and land use policies to adapt and recover from changing conditions.

Subsidized Housing

Housing that receives assistance from some form of federal, state, or local program to lower the cost of rent or mortgage. Qualifying incomes are typically between 30% to 80% Average Median Income (AMI).


Sustainable Growth

The wise use of physical resources and the establishment of development patterns that allow communities to meet their current needs and have resources to meet the needs of generations to come.

Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND)

Compact neighborhoods comprised of a mixture of residential styles and types, neighborhood-serving commercial and office developments, well-designed and connected streets, pedestrian networks, and public green spaces.

Unified Development Ordinances (UDO)

The zoning, development, and subdivision regulations for Forsyth County.



A concept involving pedestrian access to footpaths, sidewalks, greenways, building accessways, and other pedestrian-related facilities. Walkability is often measured by determining the ability of pedestrians to access and utilize a pedestrian network that is integrated into a multimodal transportation network including vehicles, bicycles, and mass transportation.


Workforce Housing

Housing in a price point that serves individuals/families that do not meet the thresholds for subsidized  housing but cannot afford market rate or luxury housing. Typically, income is between 80% and 120% Average Median Income (AMI).



A common form of land use regulation that designates permitted land uses based on mapped zones that separate one set of land uses from another. It also establishes development standards including building height, lot coverage, setbacks, screening, landscape buffering, and parking requirements for designated zones. 

Zoning, Euclidean: Also known as traditional zoning, Euclidean zoning is the most common type of zoning. It is focused on the separation of land uses and dimensional requirements for each zoning district. It is characterized by little flexibility in the face of unique features or requirements of a community.

Zoning, Form-Based: Focuses on the physical form of development rather than the separation of land uses as in Euclidean zoning. Form-based codes are organized around the desired physical form development should take and focus on the relationship between buildings, streets and public spaces; the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another; and the scale and types of streets and blocks. It emphasizes mixed-uses, walkability, and urban forms. Form-based codes are generally more flexible in terms of uses, but more prescriptive in terms of building scale, massing and design elements. 

Zoning, Performance: Focuses on controlling or limiting the effects a proposed land use may have on adjacent properties, such as noise, glare, and traffic. Unlike traditional Euclidean zoning, performance zoning is fairly flexible on where land uses can be located as long as the effects on adjacent properties are kept within established parameters.

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